The queen conch (Strombus gigas) refers to both the large, marine mollusk and its shell alone. Queen conchs (pronounced “konks”) are soft-bodied animals, belonging to the same taxonomic group (Mollusca) as clams, oysters, octopi, and squid. They live in shallow, warm waters on coral reefs or sea grass beds. A queen conch can reach up to 12 inches in length and can live for up to 40 years. Its shell grows as the mollusk grows, forming into a spiral shape with a glossy pink or orange interior.
Queen conch meat is consumed domestically throughout the Caribbean and exported as a delicacy. Conch shells and shell jewelry are sold to tourists and the live animals are used for the aquarium trade. Their slow growth, occurrence in shallow waters and late maturation make queen conch particularly susceptible to over-fishing, their greatest threat. Habitat degradation, over-fishing, and the use of SCUBA have led to harvest of previously unexploited populations in deeper waters.
Queen conch was once found in high numbers in the Florida Keys but, due to a collapse in conch fisheries in the 1970s, it is now illegal to commercially or recreationally harvest queen conch in that state. The United States is responsible for the consumption of 80% of the world’s internationally traded queen conch.
For more fun facts on Queen Conch, visit our Meet the Species page.
Laws & Regulations
For more information to those traveling to the Caribbean or import and export requirements on Queen Conch, visit our Travel & Trade section Caribbean travel.