Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

fishing, beach combing cruiser activities
These mature conch shells were at a Hog Cay trailhead.  Note
how the shell lip wraps away from the spiral core?  This is
the sign of a matured, harvestable conch.

Is there any food more quintessentially Bahamian than the conch (also known as the lambi)?  Cracked conch.  Conch fritters.  Conch salad.  Conch souse.  Conch curry…. Not only is it the most served food for tourists and locals alike in Nassau’s bustling Potter’s Cay stands, about 600,000 pounds leaves the country every year, most of it purchased by U.S. importers.  While my initial experiences with this gastropod were initially underwhelming…

This Stuff Sucks!
eventually I was won over. 
Hey… This Can Be Good!
And decided to get smarter about these delicacies, first…
Learning (By the Book)
conch harvesting hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Wayne bagging mature conch.
Any immature ones we returned
to the reproduction pool.

Then I complained about my inability to find them, but was frustrated by my attempts to extract and clean them, until….

The Personal Touch
Galley Wench Tales: Local Character, Rum Cay – click for prior blog post

To truly learn something, it take

fishing, beach combing cruising life
Wayne knocking the conch… punching a hole in the shell
is in the right spot is the first step

s repetitive hands-on experience.  As when it comes to using a hammer with precision, to his dismay, Wayne became the designated conch knocker, though he’s…

Getting the Hang of It (as you can see!)
conch cleaning hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Wayne slides a knife in the hole to release
the conch’s hold to its shell.
fishing, beach combing cruiser activities
Wayne then uses pliers to pull the conch from its shell.

Uhhh How Much Just to Buy It Done?
Wayne felt compelled to ask.  Competency does not alleviate a certain sense of horror in murdering these beautiful, slow moving defenseless creatures, even if they are delicious.  Not to mention the mess, for suburbia raised squeamish sorts like us.  Though I noticed with concern, when I went to buy them, they seemed to be smaller than legal size.
Finally… Are These Critters the Next Carrier Pigeon?
conch harvesting hog cay ragged islands bahamas
Everything ready for harvest, except the poor little lambis.

“In the 1800s, the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), named after the French word passager for “passing by,” was the most abundant bird in the world. It accounted for more than a quarter of all birds in North America, with an estimated population of 3 billion to 5 billion. The species traveled in enormous flocks, as wide as a mile and many miles long, and could strip an area of nuts within days. When the last passenger pigeon died in 1914,”– AAAS, the non-profit science society, and its international journal, Science.

The minimum density required for successful mating is 50 adult conch per hectare Community Conch research confirmed that in every commercial fishing ground surveyed over the past five years there are less than 10 conchs per hectare – a density which cannot sustain reproduction.

Conch has been legally exported from the Bahamas since 1992; most of it’s purchased by US importers. About 600,000 pounds leaves the country every year, which only increases fishing pressure on our dwindling conch stocks.

There’s talk of limiting the conch season.  It’s becoming increasingly clear something needs to change for conch to avoid extinction. I don’t want to see those little lambis loved to death, though if we see a healthy population, we might harvest a few mature ones, if Wayne’s willing to do the knocking.  I do the rest of the prep and cooking, making conch salad for me, conch chowder for Wayne.

Location, Location

This is a retrospective from our last cruising season, photos are from the Ragged Islands, Hog Cay, BAHAMAS  (N22.14.920 W75.45.106).  We are currently working over hurricane season in Jacksonville FL; this time with our boat “on the hard” in Green Cove Springs, until just before we leave in November, bound for the South Pacific via the Panama Canal.  There’s still lots of retrospectives coming up (including one last – short – conch blog post), plus how we’ll plan for long ocean passages.