No More Conch Salad? Bahamas Weighs Conch-servation
By Larry Smith, Bahama Pundit
Apr 26, 2012 - 4:51:37 PM
Five centuries ago, the Amerindian inhabitants of the Bahamas lived in a completely different world from the one we know today.
European explorers described flocks of parrots “darkening the sky”,
dense hardwood forests, and sea turtles so numerous they kept sailors
awake by constantly knocking against ship hulls.
iguanas crowded the shorelines; whales were a common sight offshore; and
lobster, conch and fish were abundant. Evidence for this are the large
mounds of discarded conch and other shells and fish bones that are a
ubiquitous feature of Lucayan archaeological sites.
slow-moving conch once abounded in shallow water, they became a staple
food for the European settlers - giving rise to their nickname,
“conchs”, which persists to this day in the Florida Keys. In the
Bahamas, the sobriquet has mutated into “conchy joe” - meaning a white
or mixed-race Bahamian.
When South Florida was an impenetrable
wilderness, Bahamian ‘conchs’ looked upon the Florida Keys as northern
out islands. In fact, Key West is famously known today as the conch
republic, and early American dictionaries define conchs as “illiterate
settlers of the Florida Keys" - meaning Bahamians, both black and white.
today, the delectable queen conch – the one we all love to eat – is in
serious trouble throughout the region. And that Bahamian delicacy, conch
salad, is in danger of becoming a thing of the past. Florida’s conch
fishery collapsed decades ago, and conch harvesting was banned
throughout the continental United States in 1986.
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