Bahamians have lived off the sea for a long time, so they take their fish (and fishing) very seriously. The queen conch, Strombus gigas, is one of those targeted species, and you can find it on just about any menu in many different recipes. Cracked conch, conch chowder, conch salad, conch burger, scorched conch, conch and grits, you name it! People of all nationalities and walks of life love it. In The Bahamas its a cultural icon and dietary mainstay. So, its hard to imagine a Bahamian restaurant that doesn’t serve conch, but soon they might not have a choice. Conch is getting harder and harder to find. Overfishing is taking its toll.
Big D is the owner of two restaurants on the island of Exuma, Big D’s Conch Spot and Big D’s Sand Bar and Grill. His menu is full of fresh seafood choices and conch dishes. His businesses are among the most successful on the island, but Big D has a problem. He’s worried about the conch. He’s concerned that when we wants to buy fresh conch, fishermen have fewer mature conch, and more immature conch to sell to him. He knows this is not a good sign, and as a fisherman himself, he knows what it means. Conch are getting scarce and something needs to be done. He’s willing to do it. Big D only buys mature conch (those that have had a chance to reproduce) and by doing so, he’s using his influence in the supply chain to make a change. He’s also committed to education of any and everyone who will listen including customers, fishermen, and fellow restaurant owners. Its not a problem he can solve by himself, but he knows he must make a choice if he wants to make sure he can serve conch now and in the future. Community Conch is looking forward to assisting Big D in his efforts. He is a leader in his country and in the Caribbean.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, chefs and restaurant managers who are not as closely connected to the source of their seafood products are also making a choice. Their mission: Only buy and serve sustainably caught seafood, and educate customers about the benefits of consuming only sustainably caught seafood. Whole industries are following suit, with certifications that encourage responsible harvest of marine resources including the lobster fishery in The Bahamas. For more information about the sustainable seafood movement check out these links:
Marine Stewardship Council
And remember, next time you order seafood, keep sustainability in mind and vote with your dollar!