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.