Queen Conch (Strombus Gigas) in Barbados: Density, Distribution, and Habitat Correlates
Queen conch (Strombus gigas Linnaeus, 1758) populations in Barbados support a small-scale unregulated fishery and government efforts are now underway to improve knowledge about the status of this valuable resource. In the present study, we contribute to these efforts by performing the first rigorous underwater assessment of queen conch on the shallow shelf. Between July and october of two consecutive years, we surveyed a total of 1210 10-m radius circular plots across 65 sites along the south (year 2007) and west (year 2008) coasts at depths of 2–15 m, representing the majority of conch fishing grounds in Barbados. Overall, conch density was low (south: 14.4 conch ha–1; west: 4.3 conch ha–1) and patchy, and most (approximately 90%) conch found were immature. Habitat had a significant effect on conch occurrence and conch shell characteristics over distances of several hundred meters: (1) within sites, the likelihood of finding conch increased with depth; and small, immature conch were found mainly in algal habitat, whereas larger, more mature conch were found mainly on coral habitat; (2) sites that were a few hundred meters apart tended to exhibit similar conch occurrence estimates, suggesting the existence of conch patches over such distances, and this effect was associated with habitat characteristics. Over distances of kilometers, considerable variability in conch occurrence across sites could not be accounted for by habitat alone suggesting an important role of unmeasured factors. Overall, our findings indicate that conch populations on the shallow shelf of Barbados are patchily distributed, severely depressed, and overexploited.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2012-10-01
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