This fall the gap year team has undertaken the task of completing Fall 2013 shallow water conch surveys. Once complete this data will be a part of a larger effort to conserve this economically and culturally important species.The sites we are surveying are in the Bight of Eleuthera; there are 18 sites total, and so far 10 have been completed. They involve snorkeling three transects, each 30 meters in length and 2 meters wide, and counting and measuring the conch we find. So far the juveniles are pulling through, and almost 100% of the conch found have been juveniles, demonstrating the environment still able to support the nursery for this species.
The surveys prove to be quite exciting, and we have spotted a plethora of other species while surveying (such as lemon sharks), and there are a lot of Echinoderms who share their habitat with the queen conch. During the surveys we are often fighting strong currents, dodging an array of jellyfish, and dealing with the hot sun. However, as tough as these times are we know we are doing something awesome for this gastropod.
What we have noticed is that as awesome as conch are, they are not exactly speedy in their get-away. This is one factor that contributes to their vulnerability as a species to overfishing. Our assistance in this research is imperative for the comparative study established by CEI Queen Conch Research Associate Claire Thomas. We are replicating the methods of a study published by Clark, Danylchuk and Freeman (2005). Using the same methods and study sites we are going to be able to have a clear understanding of what has happened to Stombus gigas after 10 years of fishing.
We look forward to seeing the results once the data has been analyzed. We hope our work will positively contribute to the protection of this ecological and economically valuable species in the Bahamas.