14 May 2010

Gong-gong: going, going...gone?

Overharvesting can deplete even humble 'common' marine life. In Phuket, fishermen are having difficulties finding dog conch snails of marketable size. They have been overharvested since they became a popular dish.
The dog conch has become increasingly popular in restaurants in Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi. Photo from Phuket Gazette

The dog conch is also found in Singapore where it is called Gong-gong (Strombus canarium). It too is eaten here and on some of our shores, are casually collected for food by ordinary people.

During a release of 12,000 cultured conch snails in Phuket, a Thai fisheries official said "Ten years ago large specimens were abundant in the sea along the Andaman Sea, but now only small ones remain. So we have to increase their numbers and encourage fishermen not to take small ones." He said the increased presence of the conch in the seagrass meadows should also help restore the natural balance of the marine environment.

Phuket bids to save the dog conch
Phuket Gazette 14 May 10;
PA KHLOK, PHUKET: In a bid to increase depleted stocks, fisheries workers released 12,000 cultured dog conch shells into the sea off Pa Khlok in Phuket earlier this month.

The operation was conducted jointly by the Marine and Coastal Resources Conservation Center 5 in Phuket and the Phang Nga Coastal Fishery Research and Development Center, where the dog conches (hawy chak teen in Thai) were cultured.

The dog conch (L. Strombus canarium) has become increasingly popular in seafood restaurants in Phuket in recent years.

Unfortunately, the mollusk has fallen victim to its own success. Fishermen are finding it hard to find the shellfish in the 8cm to 10cm range that can fetch up to 100 baht per kilo in the market.

The shellfish were released along the seagrass line off the coast on May 3, in the same area where 10,000 ‘effective microorganism’ balls were dropped into the sea in December last year.

The two-month-old snails were two to three centimeters across and are expected to reach a size of about 30 shells per kilo in four months’ time.

Thipaporn Traithong of the Phang Nga Coastal Fishery Research and Development Center said the dog conch initially became popular among diners in Krabi and spread to Phuket and Phang Nga.

“Ten years ago large specimens were abundant in the sea along the Andaman Sea, but now only small ones remain so we have to increase their numbers and encourage fishermen not to take small ones,” he said.

The dog conch feeds mainly on algae and its increased presence along the seagrass line should help restore the marine environment in the area to its natural balance, he said.

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