LONG KEY, FLA. — The Conch Republic is conched out. The mollusk meat in the conch chowder you can get at about any restaurant in the Florida Keys probably came from Jamaica or South America. There just aren't enough conch - pronounced "konk" - left to harvest in the Keys, despite its nickname as the Conch Republic.
Bob Glazer, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, is trying to change that. In giant tanks out behind the Keys Marine Lab in Long Key crawl the snail-like animals with familiar pink-and-white shells that Mr. Glazer hopes to reintroduce. Since 1991, Glazer and his colleagues have released about 6,000 mollusca gastropoda strombidae strombus gigas - Queen Conch - and studied them to determine whether laboratory-hatched conch can survive in the ocean.
The conch go through a week of predator school. "We put the lobster in a cage so the conch can see it and smell it - but the lobster can't actually attack them," Glazer says.
The Keys aren't the only place where conch are having trouble. Internationally, they are one step from being classified as threatened.