Conched Out

The queen conch, long a culinary favorite and a symbol of life in the Keys, is disappearing from local waters

The explanation for the continued conch crisis may be polluted Florida Bay water. Or it may be the result of depleted populations in other Caribbean locales. Or both. In the future researchers will try to determine the origin of conch larvae that float into Florida waters. Some believe the tiny creatures ride the Gulf Stream from as far away as Mexico. Glazer's colleague Kevin McCarthy is planning to take DNA samples of the larvae to determine whether it matches genetic material of other adult conchs. One hypothesis holds that the Gulf Stream is carrying fewer larvae into Florida waters because fewer adults are spawning elsewhere in the Caribbean.

"I knew it was bad, but I didn't realize it was as bad as it is," Glazer concludes. "This is the Conch Republic. We don't want it to be the Conch-less Republic.

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