Reproductive patterns of queen conch, Strombus gigas (Mollusca Gastropoda), across the wider Caribbean region
Queen conch, Strombus gigas (Linnaeus, 1758), is a species of significant economic importance in the Caribbean Sea, exploited mainly for consumption by a ravenous export market in the USA and French West Indies. Because populations have been depleted throughout the Caribbean region by over shing, present conservation efforts are focused on regional harmonization of conch management to improve its sustainability. In the present study, we compare the reproductive cycle of S. gigas from eight sites (Florida Keys, Alacranes Reef, Chinchorro Bank, San Pedro, San Andrés Archipelago, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Barbados) to consider the biological rationale for a harmonized closed shing season. A framework recognizing four reproductive stages for males and females is proposed for use in future studies. Signi cant di erences were found in the timing and intensity of reproductively active stages between conch from western and eastern sites in the wider Caribbean region. Two distinct reproductive strategies were observed: (1) continuous and low level of reproduction throughout the year (Alacranes Reef, San Pedro, and San Andrés Archipelago); and (2) a discrete and intense reproductive period with rapid gametogenesis (Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Barbados). Queen conch required a temperature of ≥27.7 °C to initiate gametogenesis; and were found in the resting stage below 27.5 °C. Based on a comparison of spawning seasons across the reproductive strategies observed, we suggest that the most “biologically meaningful” period for a closed season for the entire western central Atlantic would need to incorporate the months of June to September, at a minimum, to over regional protection for spawners.