Do you know what shells and sea life you are allowed to bring home from the shore? Times are changing! Many municipalities now have rules and shelling regulations regarding what beachcombers are allowed to collect. These laws are meant to protect the delicate ecosystem. In some places a violation of existing shelling regulations can result in a stiff fine and even jail time!
Tybee Island, Georgia, passed a law last week against the collection of living sea creatures. Animals protected by the new beachcombing law include live sea stars (star fish), sand dollars and hermit crabs. According to the new Tybee Island shelling regulation: beachcombers’ take home treasures can still include empty shells and nonliving animals.
If you are lucky enough to find a sand dollar, here’s a simple way to tell if it is still living. Examine it to see if it’s tiny, fuzz- like hairs (cilia) are moving. You may turn the sand dollar over and touch it very gently with your finger to check. If it is still alive you might want to gently place it (bottom side down) back in calmer water, on the sand. Hurling live sea creatures back into the ocean is never a good idea!
On Sanibel Island, Florida (widely recognized as the best shelling beach in the United States) it has been illegal to collect live specimens since January 1, 1995. According to The City of Sanibel website, MySanibel.com: “All Sanibel beaches and nearshore waters to one-half mile from shore are protected by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Rule 46-26.” This shelling regulation established a complete ban on the collection of live shells. The remainder of Lee County, Florida followed suit on March 1, 2002. Sea stars, sand dollars and sea urchins are also protected.
The Town of Hilton Head, South Carolina shelling regulation prohibits “Removal, harming , or harassment of any live beach fauna (sea turtles, sand dollars, conchs, starfish, etc.)”
Before heading to the beach for a day of shell hunting, beachcombers would be wise to check for local beachcombing regulations. Wildlife refuges, conservancies, national and state parks, counties, cities and states could all have differing rules for the types of seashells and sea life that may be removed from the beach! Oftentimes, a permit is necessary for live collecting. In some instances, all shelling is prohibited.
Be sure to know the shelling laws before you go! And have a great day at the beach! -J-
*You might also be interested in Beachcombers Beware ~ Regulation Variation at National Seashores*
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