I didn’t know we had a conch season here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I found out yesterday that Conch season opened Oct 15th and will run until July 15. Conch has played an integral part in the islands’ history. The Taino and Lucayan indians subsisted on conch and the Bermudians and American Loyalists also fished for conch for their food as this was a cheap food source rich in protein. Conch from the Turks and Caicos Islands was actively traded with Haiti on board Caicos-built sloops. Millions of conch were dried and shipped reaching a peak in 1943 when 3.9 million conchs were exported
Using a small hammer with a pointed head, the conch is “knocked” with a hole between the second and third row of nodes on the shell’s spire and this provides access to the tendon that holds the animal in its shell. The animal can then be pulled out by its claw which is removed with a fileting knife along with some tough skin and knobs.
The long, translucent and gelatinous rod know locally as “the pistol” or nature’s own Viagra is pulled out. This is quickly eaten as it is purported to be an aphrodisiac.
On a really good day, about 1,000 conch can be harvested. In recent years a quota for export has been set at 1.6 million pounds which does not include the shells. Some of the discarded shells are used by local crafts persons to create some lovely looking gifts for our visitors to take back home for family and friends.
Enjoy a selection of conch dishes when you are in the Turks and Caicos Islands.