Where Are Conch Shells Found?

conch-shells-found Credit: Stephen Harlan/CC-BY-2.0

Conch shells can be found in the Florida Keys. The conch is referred to as the queen conch, which is illegal to commercially or recreationally harvest in Florida.

The queen conch is known scientifically as strombus gigas and it refers to the large marine mollusk itself as well as its shell alone. Queen conch are soft-bodied animals and they belong to the same mollusca taxonomic group as oysters, octopus, squid and clam. They typically live on coral reefs or sea grass beds in shallow, warm water areas. Adult queen conch can grow up to 12 inches in length and live up to 40 years. As the queen conch grows, its mollusk grows and forms a spiral shape with a glossy orange or pink interior.

Queen conch fisheries began to collapse in the 1970s, which led to the illegal ruling against catching queen conch in Florida. Queen conch meat is still consumed domestically throughout the Caribbean, and it is also exported to other countries as a delicacy. Conch shells are also made into shell jewelry and sold to tourists. The live conch animals are used in the aquarium trade and kept as pets by some people. The biggest threat to queen conch populations is overfishing because they have a slow growth cycle with late maturation.