Since 1988, once a year the DoE conducts a conch survey. Using a special survey method, conchs in the North, South, Frank and East End Sounds on Grand Cayman, South Hole Sound and the sounds at Mary’s Bay and Point O’ Sand on Little Cayman are counted and their length measured.
- A grid-like series of points is dispersed across the Sound in a random manner. This is done using either maps and small weighted buoys deployed from a lead boat or GPS units on board each individual research boat.
- A research boat stops at each spot. A snorkeler throws in a 2m (meter) pole and jumps in after it. Any conch found within a 24 square metre area of the pole is collected.
- The collected conchs are passed up to the boat driver who measures them and then carefully returns them to the sea.
- The bottom type (turtle grass, sand, rock, algae, hard bottom or rubble) at the pole is also noted down.
- Each year, over 860 sites are surveyed.
Average number of conchs per hectare per sound.
The data collected are calculated to give an average number of conchs per hectare (2.47 acres) per sound. This graph shows the data between 1988 and 2000 and reveals that the number of conch per hectare in Grand Cayman and Little Cayman is slowly decreasing.
What can you do about it?
It is illegal to take conch from any of the designated marine park areas. Anyone caught poaching conch may face fines up to $500,000 or one year in prison.
You may collect conch from the open zones, but you can only take 5 per person or 10 per boat per day, whichever is less, and not during the closed season which runs from 1 May through 31 October each year. In addition you cannot collect conchs using SCUBA.