About The Species U.S. wild-caught queen conch is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed under a rebuilding plan that allows limited harvest by U.S. fishermen. Population Level Significantly below target population levels. Rebuilding plan is in place. Fishing Status At recommended level. Habitat Impact Primarily harvested by hand, so there is little impact on habitat. Bycatch Primarily harvested by hand, so the fishery is very selective and there is little, if any, bycatch. Status According to the 2009 stock assessment queen conch are overfished, but are not subject to overfishing based on 2013 catch data. Queen conch are in year 10 of a 15-year rebuilding plan. Appearance Queen conch have a large, conical shell that typically ranges in size from 6 to 9 inches, but can reach a maximum size of 12 inches. The shell has blunt spikes and is typically orange, but often looks gray because it’s covered in algae and debris. The inside of the lip ranges from bright orange to pink. Queen conch have long eye stalks and a large, tube-like mouth (proboscis) that it can pull into its shell if threatened. As older juveniles mature, they develop a large lip on their shell that continues to thicken as the animal ages. Behavior and Diet Queen conch can live a long time, up to 30 years. They grow up to 12 inches in length and can weigh up to 5 pounds. They are able to reproduce when they reach 3 to 4 years old, when they develop their flared lip. Queen conch spawns from spring through the summer, in shallower water areas with clean coral sand. Both males and females mate with multiple individuals, and eggs are fertilized internally. Females lay long egg masses containing hundreds of thousands of eggs on patches of bare sand or occasionally seagrass. Eggs hatch after about 72 hours. Larval conch feed on plankton before settling to the ocean bottom. Adults feed on algae, incidentally ingesting bits of seagrass, macroalgae, sediment, and small bottom-dwelling animals in the process. Crabs, turtles, sharks, and rays feed on queen conch. Location Description Queen conch are found throughout the Caribbean and in the Gulf of Mexico, south Florida, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. Management NOAA Fisheries and the Caribbean Fishery Management Council manage the queen conch fishery. Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Queen Conch Resources of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands: Commercial harvest is generally banned in U.S. waters. Seasonal closures protect juvenile and spawning conch. Annual catch limits, daily trip and bag limits for specific areas, and minimum size limits. Requirements to keep queen conch attached to the shell in federal waters and when landed in the U.S. Virgin Islands allow for effective counting by enforcement agents. The International Queen Conch Initiative was established by resource managers from Caribbean countries to coordinate international management of queen conch in the region.