Saturday, January 06, 2007

I was gonna say "Conchroversy"

But I decided it would be too silly.

(So I ended up writing it here anyway!)

This from Sphere:
Conch shells may be showing up on the beach in Milford but they’re not from around here. At least that’s what a marine biologist I conferred with told me: conch isn’t part of the natural fauna of Long Island Sound. If Bob Adams is finding them on the beach in Milford, they’re getting there in some unknown way. Here’s what he also said:

There's one very important piece of information missing from Bob's website. Is the conch that he's showing in the picture as he found it, or did he clean it off? If that's how he found it, then there's no doubt that someone put the shell there. In the wild, the outer surface of the conch's shell is quite fouled with algae and small critters (such as hydroids). They allow the conch (whether by intent or not) to blend in with its environment and be less visible to its predators; unfortunately for the conch, man usually isn't fooled, one of the reasons why they're heavily overfished.

If the conch was here, and was alive at some point, then I'd tend to think that one of the scenarios than you hypothesized in the blog probably came to pass.
OK, that's how I found it, with the shell stripped of its algae coating and empty of its former inhabitant.

However, shells found along a beach tend to be cleaned of any biologic coating due to wave action and sand scouring. I've seen dead conchs on Caribbean beaches that looked similar to this, even with live conchs living among the reefs just offshore.

If you look at the picture, you can see sand inside the shell. Joyce rinsed the shell in the water, but otherwise did nothing to clean it.

And the commenter Sam on Sphere said this:
I recall there used to be tons of Channeled Whelk (busycotypus canalicalatas) in the bays of Long Island Sound. They are highly prone to die from hypoxic conditions. Some people confusingly call these critters "conch."
For the record, we know what Channeled Whelks are, and in fact we find dozens of their shells along the beach in Milford, CT and Strong's Neck, NY regularly. Quite a few of them decorate our garden and front porch. Here's a photo of one:

It seems they're surviving despite of the hypoxic conditions in LIS, at least for now.
The Queen Conch (strombus gigas) has a very limited range that keeps them south of Florida, although some are reported as far as Bermuda. The Queen Conch has been listed as endangered by the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which by the way also rgeulates sturgeon and sturgeon roe. The US has an argreement between NMFS and CITES to help protect the Queen Conch.

Most likely those shells were from a saltwater aquarium or were illegally transported from the Bahamas or Florida. One may harvest abandoned conch shells in Florida but no harvest of live conch are allowed, as they are a protected species.

So what a lot of people do it make the 90-mile trip to the Bahamas, where the conch is virtuallly unregulated - one may harvest 10 per person at any give time! In response to the nearly depleted resources, the Bahamian Ministry of Fisheries is proposing regulations that no "tourists" can take any queen conch.

But for now it is legal, although remember that the US considers the Queen Conch illegal to possess because of the CITES (although dead empty shells are again OK).

It is a fascinating story. /Sam
Thanks for the detailed info, Sam.

We want to make it clear that we're not claiming anything at all by discussing this. I'm not saying that conchs thrive in LIS unbeknown to every scientific study or marine biologist.

I simply think it's a fun little mystery, and challenging to think about how the shells ended up there. I tend to think someone dumped them on the beach, maybe as they were moving from one of the many local rentals. But it's also interesting to speculate that they may have been brought up from tropical waters on a ship or something like that.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ringing in the New Year "Pirate-style"

Joyce, John & Celeste from "Witchcraft", and me celebrate the New Year in style.