Picking Up Seashells At The Beach

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Picking up seashells at the beach:

In most places it's O.K. to pick up *empty* seashells at the beach, but ask the local lifeguard to be sure first, or contact your state's Fish and Game Department. "Empty" means the shells don't have any creatures living in them or using them as a home. Sometimes a small critter such as a small snail or hermit crab or other animal will be using a larger abandoned shell as a home. If you find the shell is occupied, leave it where you found it.

In some states such as California it's forbidden to pick up any shells with living creatures still in them in the "intertidal" area without a fishing license. "Intertidal" means the area between the low tide and the high tide. If you have a fishing license then some types of live sea creatures can be taken. Again, you can probably check with your state's Fish and Game Department for what's allowed and what's not.

In some tidepools it's O.K. to remove any empty seashells you find, but in many it's not. Again, either ask a local official or look for signs that indicate what's O.K. and what's not.

And in some areas -- often in marine preserves -- it's forbidden to remove anything, including empty seashells and even rocks. In places such as that the ocean shore is being kept in its natural state to provide a better home for creatures that live in the sand and near the shore, or for some other good reason. In such places there will usually be clear signs posted inviting you to look but not to touch.

For more thoughts on conservation and leaving sensitive sea life alone, you might be interested in reading this: Waikiki Seashells.

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