WhelkWhelk is a common name for various marine gastropod species in the family Buccinidae. Whelks are also known as conchs, and the word "whelk" can refer to either the animal or its shell. The large whelks Strombus gigas and Busycon perversum are sometimes called "channeled whelks". Whelks can be found in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world.
Whelk eggs are laid in a long, coiled string that can contain as many as 50,000 eggs. The egg string is usually about 3 m (10 ft) long but can be up to 10 m (33 ft) long. The eggs hatch after about two weeks and the young whelks spend the next few months floating in the plankton. When they reach a suitable size, they settle to the bottom and begin to feed on bottom-dwelling creatures.
Whelks are predators, and their diet consists of clams, other mollusks, and small crustaceans. They drill a hole in their prey's shell using a file-like tongue and then insert their proboscis to feed. Whelks are sometimes harvested for food, and the shells are used to make jewelry and other decorative items.
The channeled whelk (Busycotypus canaliculatus) is the largest species of whelk, and it can reach a length of 30 cm (12 in). This species is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Canada to Brazil. The knobbed whelk (Busycon carica) is another large species, and it can reach a length of 25 cm (10 in). This species is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from New England to Florida.
The lightning whelk (Busycon sinistrum) is a large species that can reach a length of 28 cm (11 in). This species is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Florida.
The tulip whelk (Busycon contrarium) is a large species that can reach a length of 30 cm (12 in). This species is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida.
The channeled whelk, knobbed whelk, lightning whelk, and tulip whelk are all harvested for food. The channeled whelk is the most popular species for human consumption, and it is often sold as "scungilli" in Italian restaurants.
The periwinkle (Littorina irrorata) is a small marine snail that is found in the intertidal zone of the northeastern United States. This species is often used as bait for fishing, and it is also harvested for food.
Global whelk production
Whelk production is a global industry, with countries around the world contributing to the overall output. The top five producing countries are China, Japan, Korea, India, and Vietnam. Combined, these countries account for over 80% of the world's total whelk production.
China is by far the largest producer of whelks, with an annual output of over 2 million metric tons. This is more than double the production of the second-largest producer, Japan. Korea, India, and Vietnam round out the top five, each with production levels of around half a million metric tons per year.
The global whelk industry has seen significant growth in recent years. Production has more than doubled since 2000 when it was just over 3 million metric tons. The majority of this growth has been driven by increases in Chinese and Vietnamese production.
The vast majority of whelks are used for food. They are popular in many Asian cuisines, particularly in China and Japan. In China, whelks are often eaten as street food, boiled or grilled, and served with a dipping sauce. In Japan, they are commonly used in sushi and sashimi. Whelks are also gaining popularity in Western countries as a culinary novelty.