Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fighting Conchs and Apple Snails

Size Reference ... FC's size eleven sneakers vs. the tilapia nest.

I intended to include this photo in my Savannas State Preserve post a few days ago, but failed to do so. The tilapia nest photos I did post had no size reference near the holes and I really wanted you to sense how massive these nests were.

Although the tilapia in this pond are exotics and detrimental to our native bottom nesters like bluegill and shellcrackers, I can also see these exposed tilapia craters acting like breeding chambers for some amphibians and insects as the pond retreats and the fishy predators drop back or are eaten by wading birds.
Every cloud and all that ...

A native apple snail.

Speaking of clouds ... one dark cloud hanging over Florida's native species is the exotic Channeled Apple Snail. They are yet another release from the aquarium pet trade and they, like the tilapia, plecos, and a host of cichlids are probably here to stay in Florida waters.

At Harbor Branch, researchers are breeding native apple snails for replenishing wild stocks around Okeechobee that have been replaced by the exotic snails.

Our snail kites depend on apple snails and the adults apparently can handle the exotics, but young kites have trouble eating the larger Channeled Apple Snails.

Hopefully, the restocking program will balance things out. Apple snails are so easy to raise, this animal seems like a perfect classroom project to get kids involved in wildlife restoration.

Here's a friendly native, the Fighting Conch.

This one is just a wee thing, born and bred at Harbor Branch.
Fighting conchs are edible and a possible commercial crop for those of you who like conch chowder, conch fritters, ceviche ... (insert Bubba Gump litany here).
... And who doesn't?

Presently, the queen conch is the primary food conch down here in subtropics, and their populations are under great pressure, so adding the fighting conch to the menu could help queens recover in the wild.

They are also in demand in the marine aquarium trade as algae munchin' tank cleaners. In fact, I'm thinking about growing some myself.

My aquacultural entrepreneurial itch got scratched big time down there at Harbor Branch.
I have the brains, the land, and the passion ... so something's going to happen.
Risky business though, so we will start small.
Food fish, bait fish, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic plants .... what to do, what to do ... MUST FOCUS!

I'll keep you posted.

Hmmmm ... let's see ... this post contained two exotics and one native ... that's about normal for Florida these days.


tai haku said...

Speaking of conchs and things we forgot to post I was fishing out the other day on one of our islands and we drove past some queen conch middens the size of a house. Heaven knows how long the locals have been dumping them in the same few spots but it was pretty scary. Naturally it was only when we got abck that I realised I hadn't taken a photo. Fighting conchs have been showing up in the aquarium trade too - presumably from HB. I'm a big fan of diversified shellfish production like this - takes the pressure off each species a little for every additional one people eat from time to time. BTW do the locals eat introduced tilapia or do they not taste so good from these channels? Phew - that was more of an essay than a comment! That's what you get for raising so many issues in a single post.

Anonymous said...

You and Thunder are really making me hungry! You reminded me of the conch fritters that I love so much and Thunder just posted a plateful of froglegs! Oh, if I could just get the two at once!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thought of football with regard to "Fighting Conchs"?

Kittikity said...

If you get to producing tilapia, I'd love some to start out my personal stock.. Sam's club has tilapia and it's absolutely delicious! Best fish ever! But not for the natural waterways, of course..

Dani said...

"Two exotics and one native". Yes, it is indeed true. Makes my heart break every time we see one more thing lost to the invasives.

Sandcastle Momma said...

That fighting conch is beautiful. We see less and less of them each year around here. My husband wants to get started on some kind of aquaculture so he'll be watching to see how you do it. Good luck!

ChrisC and JonJ said...

I love to watch the way a Fighting Conch reacts when you find one.We see lots of them when we're down on Sanibel.

TROLL Y2K said...

Let us know if you find a good "how to do aquaculture" website.

Grrehrhahahahahahaha on the Exotic-To-Native ratio. Might be a tad optimistic.

Felicia said...

Looking forward to seeing how your aquaculture projects go--you can definitely do well by doing good!

rick said...

was the training you attended at the facility between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach. Our tracks go by a facility that is rumured to have been the home base for J Cousteau years ago ?

lisa said...

I loved the apple snail, awesome and the fighting conch was pretty neat also.

Deb said...

I had conch once or twice when I was studying marine biology in the Virgin Islands one January (ah the luxury!) and it was absolutely divine. If we can get relatively cheap, sustainably produced shellfish shipped here to Minnesota, I'm all for it!

Miz S said...

Yes! Focus! When you become a rich and famous aquaculturist/nature photographer we will say that we knew you back in the day when you were a lowly teacher/blogger.

Anonymous said...

Was recently informed about your blog FC. Enjoying it as a release from the landlocked City of Dallas and working with the tallest 1% of the population.

Former FC Student Who Still Has Family As Co-Worker

Thunder Dave said...

One question: Are the apple snails edible?

Ok 2 questions: Do you need an assistant to help get the aquaculture business off the ground?

Floridacracker said...

Thanks for that input! When it comes to seafood we are still very much hunter gatherers... sustainable aquaculture can definitely take some pressure off wild stocks.

Y'all went to the greatest fried chicken place and ate frog???

My college mascot was a mollusk so you were not the only one!

Tilapia are sweetly delicious fishes. :)

Frustrating isn't it? It seems like there's a never ending list of them!

I wonder if UWF has any aquaculture research going on?

Chris and John,
It seems like we have more crown conchs up this way, they are pretty common on the grassflats.

I may have to write one.

I like the sound of that!

Yes, and train tracks run right through the place. I don't know about the Cousteau rumor, but this place dates back to 1971 I think, so it he certainly could have been there.

Apple snails are pretty awesome... about as big as a big plum.

Studying in the VI? That must have been hell. You poor thing.

Miz S,
I won't forget you when I'm post lowly.

Hey buddy! Glad you found me!

I think they must not be very tasty or they would be a known game critter. You open a brewpub and I'll grow the shrimp to munch there.
Make ya a deal.