Seeing a conch shell at the beach is a special experience because it doesn’t happen that often. You might be tempted to take it home with you, especially because they’re so pretty to look at. However, is this actually a responsible thing to do?
What is a conch?
You might think that a conch is nothing more than a beautiful spiral shell. However, that’s not the case. Inside the eye-catching exterior is a mollusk that grows with the shell. It moves around on the beach by extending a leg or horn outside the shell and dragging it along the sand. So, if you ever see the shell appearing to move of its own accord, that’s what’s happening.
How long do the mollusks live?
Taking a shell home that contains a mollusk would mean removing the creature from its natural habitat and potentially endangering its life. That’s not what most want, meaning you should only pick up a shell that you know is empty. How long does it take for a mollusk to pass away and abandon its beautiful exterior, though? Well, if it’s a queen conch, it can live for 40 years, so you could potentially be waiting a while for the mollusk to leave its shell.
Why should you leave conches alone?
If you encounter a live conch, you must leave it be. Removing it puts the creature’s life at risk, and the species are already depleting in number. This is down to two reasons, the first of which is that the mollusk is actually considered a delicacy in the Caribbean. With so many people eating them, their numbers are naturally depleting. The other issue is overfishing, with people catching conches too early in their lifecycle. It takes four to five years for these creatures to be old enough to reproduce, but many of the ones being fished are younger than this. That means they have no opportunity to bring more life into the world, leading to a decline in the population.
Is there any way to stop this?
Several organizations do exist to try and help save the conch from becoming extinct. Some countries have begun adopting rules which state when the creature can be fished. That way, they ensure that they don’t get the mollusks while they’re still juvenile. Unfortunately, not everywhere is enforcing this, meaning the problems continue in certain parts of the world. There’s little the average person can do to help with this, aside from signing petitions and spreading the word. However, with climate change believed to have some impact on conch habitats, too, trying to be more eco-friendly could help. Plus, you can avoid the temptation to pocket a conch shell when you see one at the beach. As beautiful as it may be, it’s best that you leave it where it is.
It might be hard to resist the allure of a conch, but thankfully, this isn’t the only thing of interest at the beach. There are plenty of other wonders you can take home, none of which will endanger a species.