- Fishermen toss the pink shells of the conch aside after harvesting the meat.
- Conch is a popular seafood here and cooked as delicious deep-fried fritters.
- The mass of dead shells in the water affect the behavior of the living conch.
In the island of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands lies a a mass of conch shells removed of their smooth white meat. This “graveyard” of shiny pink shells is a product of fishermen throwing away the shells after removing the meat that they sought.
The conch is a type of sea snail that is one of the primary seafood of choice in the islands. It is equal to the lobster in that regard.
A lovely graveyard of discarded conch shells have become a lovely sight.
Almost every restaurant serving local cuisine here has conch dishes in their menu, especially the conch fritters. The dish is made by chopping the tasty meat into fine pieces and then breaded and deep-fried.
The fritters are best enjoyed with a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce.
Conch fritters are also commonly served in the kitchens of charter boats cruising the Caribbean waters.
The conch can be found in almost everywhere in the Caribbean, but it in the British Virgin Islands, it is harvested locally.
It’s mostly acquired from the waters surrounding Anegada.
There are piles of discarded conch shells starting from the seafloor and then looms out of the water. Some people say that the mass of shells is one of the reasons why there are plenty of mollusks in the area.
The rubbery meat sought after by the fishermen…
Interestingly, the shells of the dead conch actually repel the living ones. Kelwyn “Kelly” Faulkner Lindsay, one of the local fishermen, explained that locals would dive into the seabeds and saw the tops of the shells. They will draw out the conchs’ innards and then throw the empty shells back into the seabed, dropping 30 to 40 feet below.
As the older conch shells sink into the sand, the newer shells were thrown on top. This keeps the height level. Eight hundred years or so after this was first practiced by previous generations, the shells piled up to become a lovely and peaceful-looking “garbage dump.”
Lindsay explained that the massive buildup of the shells had an effect on the movements of the living conch.
“The ones that are alive will start to move away from the empty shells. So…we put all the shells in one place.”
Since the empty shells are occupy just one small area instead of scattered throughout the fishing areas, the living conch will assume that there’s no threat to them and thus they will keep on dwelling in Anegada.
This theory has not been officially proven, but scientists think there may be truth in it.
According to Clive Petrovic, a biology professor at Tortola’s H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, “There is some indication, mostly anecdotal I think, that dead conch will repel live ones. Possibly because in nature live conch are usually killed by predators. Thus, it would confer survival advantage to live conch to leave an area that may contain a predator.”
Also, the shells have another purpose – it serves as a hatching spot for the schools of turtles, stingrays, and nurse sharks. This makes it serve as “a nursery and a reef,” says Lindsay.