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Posts Tagged ‘shelling laws’

Hermit Crab: A Different Kind of Beachcomber!

Posted by Jody on February 4, 2014

Whether you’ve been tidepooling, beachcombing or have simply enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the sand, you have probably come upon a hermit crab or two! Hermit crabs are abundant in tidepools and along the seashore. They can be found living in abandoned marine snail (gastropod) shells and, less commonly, in other hollow objects (e.g., coral, rock or wood).

Look closely! Do you see the legs of the hermit crabs scooting around in this LaJolla tidepool?

Hermit Crabs in a La Jolla Tide Pool

Hermit Crabs in a La Jolla Tide Pool

Cool, huh?

Animal Planet states, “Unlike true crabs, hermit crabs have soft, vulnerable abdomens. For protection from predators, many hermit crabs seek out abandoned shells, usually snail shells. When a hermit crab finds one of the proper size, it pulls itself inside, leaving several legs and its head outside the shell. (A hermit crab has five pairs of legs, but not all of them are fully developed.) A hermit crab carries the shell wherever it goes. When it outgrows its shell, it switches to a larger one. Most adult hermit crabs are from 1/2 inch (13 mm) to 4 3/4 inches (121 mm) long. Living on the seashore, in tidepools, and on the sea bottom in deeper water, hermit crabs scavenge their food.”

Liam's find is a hermit crab's home!

Liam’s find is a hermit crab’s home!

According to a Marine Parks Western Australia webpage, the biggest threat to hermit crabs is people!

1) While beach goers are often searching for the most beautiful seashells to carry home, they might also accidentally collect the little shore critters who have carefully selected the same shells as their beachfront condos! One hermit crab’s home, in turn, unintentionally becomes a beachcomber’s “beach treasure.”  Hermit crabs are amazingly good at hiding inside their shells to protect themselves from discovery. Before we put those seashells in our brightly colored plastic pails, we really should inspect each shell very carefully for signs of a resident hermit crab.  When our 5 year old grandson, Liam, found an absolutely gorgeous moon snail shell on a beach near Galveston Island, TX, we didn’t see a little hermit crab inside. Then we did. Then we didn’t!! Hermit crabs are very clever and quite skillful at stealing themselves away in their homes.

2) It’s no surprise that the prized larger seashells are favored by shell collectors. This sometimes leaves slim pickings for growing, house hunting hermit crabs. *This is one very practical reason that beaches sometimes have collection limits for unoccupied seashells of 1 gallon, 5 gallons, etc. per person.*

3) Other hermit crabs are taken home deliberately to become pets. *It’s important to remember that live collection of  shore life is prohibited on many beaches!* Marine Parks WA reminds us: “Hermit crabs make popular pets, but you should never ever take one from the wild. They should remain in its natural habitat to form an important part of the marine food chain and, if removed, are likely to die within days in any case.”

Alaskan Hermit Crab (Photo: Jan Haaga, PD-USGov-NOAA)

Related beachcombing posts: Tidepool Etiquette 101

Beachcombing? Shelling Regulations Abound. Know Before You Go!

Beachcombers Beware ~ Regulation Variation at National Seashores

Happy beachcombing to you and to our little ten-legged seashore friends!


Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells, Tide Pools | Tagged: , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Beachcombing Regulations Abound. Know Before You Go!

Posted by Jody on October 17, 2013

Do you know what (if any) seashells and critters 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. Every now and then these ordinances are passed with the intention of preserving the delicate coastal ecosystem. In some places a violation of existing shelling regulations can result in a stiff fine and even jail time!

Can you bring me home?

Is there a resident hermit crab inside? Maybe!

Tybee Island, Georgia, passed a law in 2011 against the collection of living sea creatures. Animals protected by the new beachcombing law include live sea stars (aka: star fish), sand dollars, and hermit crabs. It’s important to know that hermit crabs can be pretty tricky critters! You may have to inspect a seashell more than once to be absolutely certain it’s empty.

According to the 2011 Tybee Island shelling regulation: beachcombers’ take home treasures can still include empty shells and nonliving animals.

Sand Dollar

Sand Dollar

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’ll surely want to gently place it (bottom side down) back in calmer water, on the sand. Seriously, hurling live sea creatures back into the ocean is never a good idea!

Live Sand Dollar (Reverse Side)

Live Sand Dollar (Reverse Side)

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, “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.)”

Beachcombing on the Bolivar Peninsula of the Texas Gulf Coast

Beachcombing on the Bolivar Peninsula of the Texas Gulf Coast

Oftentimes, an official permit is mandatory for live collecting. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission declares: “A Florida recreational saltwater fishing license (resident or non-resident, whichever is applicable) is required in order to harvest a sea shell containing a living organism, even when harvesting from shore.” 

Before heading to the beach for a fun-filled day of treasure hunting, beachcombers would be wise to check for the most up-to-date 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! Occasionally they conflict. And in some instances, all shelling and collecting is prohibited. We always play it safe and go with the strictest of the rules and regs. That’s one way to keep those hard earned vacation dollars in our pockets!

~~~ It’s that important to know before you go! ~~~

We’d really like to hear about the shelling regulations on your favorite beach. Please feel free to share!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Beachcombers Beware ~ Regulation Variation at National Seashores

Posted by Jody on January 12, 2012

We already know that every beach is different; the view, the sand, the shoreline, the coastal critters! Another thing that varies from beach to beach are the laws and ordinances regarding beachcombing and seashell collecting.

Just North of San Francisco, California

Just North of San Francisco, California

Beachcombers Beware ~ even among the ten federally protected areas known as National Seashores, which are managed by the National Park Service (an agency of the United States Department of the Interior), shelling  regulations and rules can vary greatly. Here is just a sampling of the diverse shelling and collecting regulations within the National Park System:

Point Reyes National Seashore (Northern California) has very strict regulations regarding collecting items within the park. “All objects (plants and animals (or parts of them such as flowers, seashells, or antlers), historic artifacts, minerals, etc.) within the National Seashore are protected and may not be collected. However, certain products are available for personal (non-commercial) use only in limited quantities. These are: Blackberries, Raspberries, Thimbleberries, Gooseberries, Salmonberries, Huckleberries, or apples – 2 quarts per person per day / Mushrooms – 2 gallons plus 1 mushroom per adult per day.” (Okie Dokie ~ That’s mighty interesting!)

McClures Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California (©Jody Diehl)

At Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland and Virginia) the collection of seashells is allowed under the following guideline: “Shell Collecting  / Limit collecting to a gallon or less of unoccupied shells to ensure a supply for beach dwelling organisms.”

Padre Island National Seashore (Texas Gulf Coast) “allows visitors to take up to five gallons of seashells, as long as they are not used commercially. Shell collecting is permitted as long as the mollusk in the shell is no longer living. Check carefully to make sure that the shell is empty or the organism has died before you collect.” The Padre Island National Seashore website even offers a downloadable brochure with helpful tips for successful seashell hunting within the park.

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida

It’s so important to know before you go!  You can check the National Park Service website for the specific National Seashore you’ll be visiting. After all, the above examples show three different National Seashores, all within the same National Park System, where the seashell collecting restrictions range from no collecting to one gallon or less of unoccupied specimens, and all the way up to five gallons of hand picked beach treasures!

Have a great day at the beach & happy beachcombing!



Posted in Beach Treasures - Beachcombing, Sand and Shoreline | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Top Ten Beach Tips for Marco Island, Florida

Posted by Jody on December 27, 2011

Do you have future plans to bask in the sun, picnic with you family or hunt for beach treasures at the seashore?  If so, is Fido welcome to join you? Are bicycles allowed on the sand? Chances are that the beach you will be visiting will have very specific ordinances for dogs and almost everything else from beachcombing and collecting seashells to sharing the beach with the local wildlife.

The City of Marco Island, located on the Gulf of Mexico south of Naples, Florida has a set of  Top Ten Beach Tips for Marco Island to make days at the beach fun and safe for everyone who visits their sunny southwest Florida shores.  Their Top Ten Beach Tips list includes crucial advice to help visitors enjoy and protect the beautiful beaches and wildlife of Marco Island. Be sure to check out City of Marco Island online for the complete list of their local beach tips and information.

The wide ranging Top Ten Beach Tips for Marco Island include both the common sense approach for any day trip to the beach and some rules geared specifically to ordinances put in place for the City of Marco Island, Florida.

1) Leave only your footprints behind: If you bring it to the beach, take it away with you. Though we have regular beach clean ups, everyone is responsible for his own trash! Of course, this is good advice for a trip to the mountains or the city park, as well as the beach! 

2) Keep it clean: Use appropriate containers for trash, including cigarettes and fishing line. Our wildlife can become entangled in monofilament and they can eat plastic materials.

3) Glass cuts: No glass bottles or containers on the beach!

4) Share the beach with our wildlife: Please keep your distance, never flush the birds, avoid posted areas and encourage others to do the same thing. It’s important not to feed or disturb any beach and coastal wildlife.

Black Skimmer and Chick (Photo by Dan Pancamo / Wikimedia Commons)

5) Turn lights out for sea turtles: Lights disturb nesting turtles and hatchlings and causes disorientation. Turtle nesting season means dark beaches.

6) Let living creatures lie: No live shelling is allowed on Marco Island.

7) Wheeled vehicles are not allowed: Cars, trucks, bicycles, or Segways are not allowed on the beach.

8) Dogs and pets don’t go: Pets cannot romp to the beaches of Marco Island, Florida.

9) Respect others: Who can argue with the Golden Rule?

10) Get informed and involved: The Marco Island website has great links and information for learning more about their community-specific beach ordinances and how residents and visitors can help protect these beautiful Gulf Coast beaches.

Have a great day at the beach!

Posted in Beach Safety Tips, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Tallies & Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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