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Harbor Branch, researchers are breeding native apple snails for replenishing wild stocks around Okeechobee that have been replaced by the exotic snails.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