SUNSHINE KEY, FL – Did you know that taking live conch out of the waters in and around Florida is illegal? One poacher near Sunset Key found out the hard way, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
CONCH POACHING IS ILLEGAL IN FLORIDA
“A Miami-Dade County man was given a mandatory notice to appear in court citation Saturday for possessing protected conch,” the department said today. “Marine Deputy Willie Guerra was on patrol near Sunshine Key near Mile Marker 38 at approximately 6 p.m. when he saw two men dragging a canoe with fishing rods inside.”
Both men denied having any fish or other wildlife. Deputy Guerra spotted four live queen conchs inside the canoe. One of the men — Markus Dyer, 31, of Miami-Dade County — stated he didn’t know the conch were alive. The other man denied taking any of the conch.
Dyer was cited and the conch were returned to the water.
CAN I PICK UP CONCH SHELLS ON THE BEACH?
Under Florida law, the “Queen Conch” is a protected species and while you can pick up shells along the beach if you find one that has died and washed ashore, taking live conch is against the law.
Queen conch has been listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1992.
CONCH IN U.S. AND CARRIBEAN CULTURE
According to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, Queen conch meat is consumed domestically throughout the Caribbean and exported as a delicacy. Conch shells and shell jewelry are sold to tourists and the live animals are used for the aquarium trade. Their slow growth, occurrence in shallow waters and late maturation make queen conch particularly susceptible to over-fishing, their greatest threat. Habitat degradation, over-fishing, and the use of SCUBA have led to harvest of previously unexploited populations in deeper waters.
Queen conch was once found in high numbers in the Florida Keys but, due to a collapse in conch fisheries in the 1970s, it is now illegal to commercially or recreationally harvest queen conch in that state. The United States is responsible for the consumption of 80% of the world’s internationally traded queen conch.