Last summer, I was picking up beach trash and was asked by a tourist where all the seashells were? Where I live, there isn’t a lot of seashells, but as I walked, I started to remember 40 years ago, there seemed to be a lot more shells: starfish, butterfly clams, cowries, sea urchins and sand dollars. 50 years ago you could go pick abalone off the rocks at Bird Rock at low tide. Today you can rarely find sand dollars at low tide or maybe a starfish. So what happened to all the seashells?
There isn’t very many if any studies on the effects of shell collecting. The only one I could find was a study done over 30 years in Spain in which they found that the amount of seashells decreased 60% and tourism had increased to over 300%. The reasons for this can be any number of things, beach combing, overfishing, acidification, beach grooming and of course endangered species such as the Queen Conch and Giant Clam.
There are many uses for seashells aside from crafts. People use for hardscaping in their yards, jewelry, button, concrete and decor. Is that where all the seashells have gone? Is the use of seashells eco-friendly?
Most likely if you are picking up ‘dead’ shells from the beach, yes. If you are picking ‘live’ shells off the beach, dredging or buying from a store, it is likely you could be purchasing illegal seashells and promoting the death of marine life.
I Just Gotta Eco Ya:
- Birds use seashells to make nests.
- Crabs use seashells as shelter
- Seashells are used to stop back erosion
- Seashells provide nutrients .
Eight Tips To Eco Friendly Shell Collecting
- Don’t take anything that is alive, has an animal in it or has plants growing from it.
- Throw live shells and animals back into the water.
- Do not take Spiral Shells are homes for hermit crabs
- As much as possible take Photo’s only.
- No skin/Scuba diving Shell collecting whether live or dead.
- Pick up trash as you beach comb
- Note laws: Many beaches such has band the taking of live seashells
- Do not dredge for seashells.
There is an Illegal Seashell Trade. In particular Giant Clams, some Starfishes, Cowries, Queen Conches, Hawksbill Turtle are endangered. In fact harvesting of live endangered species off of reefs and ocean eco-systems is now covered under CITIES.
Bottom line, if you use the adage leave only a Footprint, shell collecting is a non-enity. But if you do aspire to have a few memories use the Eco Friendly Seashell collecting guide.
- Cebu launches crackdown on illegal seashell trade.
- Sacks of Endangered Seashells seized
- Helmut Shells Seized in Lapu
- Rare SeaShells in Sri Lanka to be Wiped out by Illegal Export Trade ; Rare Sri Lankan seashells are openly advertised on websites irrespective of the illegality of selling them. According to reliable sources, the kingpins behind this illegal operation are Sri Lankans who are professionals in identifying seashells right down to their sub species…
- Kowalewski, M., R. Domenech, and J. Martinell. 2014. Vanishing clams on an Iberian beach: Local consequences and global implications of accelerating loss of shells to tourism. PLOS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083615.
- Laws about recreational sea shell harvesting in Florida
- Earth Advocates: Illegal SeaShell Trade
- Protected Seashell Trade in Indonesia
- Seashells That Are Illegal to be Taken From the Beach
- How To Collect Shells From Hawaiian Beaches: With more than 377 endangered species, Hawaii observes strict animal protection laws and forbids the extraction of the Triton trumpet and helmet shells.
- 2001 Fisheries Administrative Order 208 protects rare, threatened, and endangered species that taking or catching them except for scientific research purposes is punishable.
- Facts and Details about Seashell Trade
- SeaShell Collector Forum: International SeaShell Collecting Laws
- Endangered SeaShells
- The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; http://www.cites.org/), created in 1975 goal : “CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system. Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on the status of the species.” The Species Checklist can be found there : http://www.cites.org/eng/resources/pub/checklist08/Checklist.pdf