One of the most exciting culinary seasons for locals is when we can finally eat fresh conch, whelks and lobsters from our own waters.  I remember hearing stories from my parents about how abundant these sea ingredients were when they were growing up, but due to the island’s growing population and overharvesting, eventually rules had to be set in placed by the Department of Environment (DoE).  This meant harvesting seasons were formed throughout the year, with conch and whelk season running from the 1st November until the 30th April and lobster season beginning today, 1st December, until the 28th February. 

Whether you decide to dive for conch, snare lobsters or pick whelks, you’ll need to know the daily catch limits set out by the DoE that apply for both personal consumption and restaurants.  To prevent overharvesting of these island delicacies, and ensure that we have enough for years to come, you need to note the following:

  • The daily catch limit for queen conch is five conch per person or 10 conch per boat with two or more people.  
  • The daily catch limit for whelks is 2.5 gallons in the shell or 2.5 pounds of processed whelks per person per day.  
  • The daily catch limit for spiny lobsters (with tails at least six inches long) is three lobsters per person or 6 per boat with two or more people.  

Not sure how to prepare this on your own, but keen to try conch, lobster and whelks the Caymanian way?  You should visit some of our local restaurants including Heritage Kitchen in West Bay, Big Tree BBQ and Miss Vivine’s in East End and Coney’s Place and Amelia’s Kitchen in George Town.  They are some of the best at making Caymanian cuisine shine in the form of the stewed whelks, Cayman-style lobster and stewed conch with all the fixings.

Stewed conch at Amelia’s Kitchen.

Two fine dining institutions on island that fuse local ingredients with global flavours and techniques are The Brasserie and Grand Old House.  These are two of my favourite restaurants to visit when I want to order a fresh whole lobster or conch appetiser, but because of the catch limits that means they only have a few available each day.  If you are craving fresh catch, then you’d better be one of the first to place your orders because once they’re gone that’s it for the day!

It’s an exciting few months for Cayman residents, so if you’re visiting the island start planning where you’ll go for your first bite of lobster, conch and whelks this season.