New England conch are a valuable part of the more diverse local fishing portfolios on the Cape and Islands. Fishermen see potential in the mollusk, but have found it hard to plan their efforts in the face of boom-and-bust cycles in conch populations. A better understanding of conch growth rates is a critical part of improving conch management.
As a result, Cape Cod conch fishermen have been directly involved in collecting data about conch growth rates throughout Nantucket Sound. The conch tagging project expands on work by UNH graduate student, Shelley Edmundson. With Shelley, fishermen from the Cape and Islands have tagged almost 14,000 conch since 2011.
We are expanding this work in 2015 to include a research effort that will use members of the directed channeled whelk fishery in Cape Cod to collect data on the abundance and distribution of channeled whelk in Cape Cod on a biannual basis. This project aims to collect three different kinds of information about the conch population in Nantucket Sound: (1) biological information about the channeled whelk stock to indicate the relative abundance of channeled whelk in Cape Cod, (2) biological information about how the channeled whelk population is divided in terms of dominant size classes, and (3) geospatial information to indicate the relative distribution of channeled whelk in Cape Cod.
These industry-based research projects will greatly improve our understanding of conch population dynamics in the area - and arm us with critical information to inform future conch management decisions. Our fishermen look forward to bringing this data into their dialogue with state regulators.