If you're a regular reader of my blog I'm sure you've heard of Necker Island, have probably heard of Moskito Island, and may have heard of many other beautiful locations in the British Virgin Islands. However, you won't have heard of this latest addition...
On first glance the picture above is a beautiful image of kitesurfing off Anegada. However, that’s not an island; it’s a piles of conch shells. These conch have been so overharvested that their very existence is in peril throughout the Caribbean.
Queen conch are fished heavily for their meat and also for their stunning shells to be used as jewellery and keepsakes. These edible marine snails are slow moving, breed late in life and tend to aggregate in shallow water to spawn, so they are easily caught.
Queen conch was listed in Appendix II of CITES in 1992, with the organisation noting that without trade controls the species will be threatened with extinction. The US currently prohibits import of queen conch from many parts of the Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago.
However, conch are still imported from places such as the BVI, Bermuda, Aruba and the Bahamas, resulting in their numbers being hugely reduced.
Conch farms are being trialled in places such as Turks and Caicos and work is being done by the likes of the NOAA to improve queen conch aquaculture. Nevertheless, I would urge anyone considering taking conch to think again.
On a brighter note, as the photos show the British Virgin islands is the best place for kitesurfing in the world - and I'd urge anyone to try it.