Does Collecting Seashells Really Harm Beaches?

beach shells

clam shells from the beach

Don’t you feel guilty about collecting seashells? Apparently some people think you should.

When I found this article entitled, “Hey Tourists: Leave Those Shells on The Beach Would Ya?” at the site, I had to read it.  And then I shook my head.
After all, I write about collecting seashells and that post is saying it is not a good idea.  But what is the reasoning behind this?  Well, I read that tourism to beaches has increased so much that the collecting of seashells is in danger of hampering the coastline.  Shells that could be used by hermit crabs as homes, and by sea birds as nesting material (huh?), and in beach stabilization.  Okay, the study was done over a 30 year period on beaches in the Mediterranean, where tourism to the coast has increased three fold.

Sorry folks but I find it incredibly hard to believe that tourists are collecting THAT many seashells and taking them back home.  How much room do you leave in your suitcase for shells when you take a vacation to the shore?  And even if they are significantly hoarding shells, these are most likely empty shells.  What about the living organisms that are dredged up with fishing nets, and selected for food, and sold in shops?  These are the ones doing the most damage, not a simple vacationer.

Also the damage done to the coast from building, driving on the sand and polluting the water has to be much greater.  And the study says that this was mainly a way to account for shell loss due to beachcombing, and nothing else.  But it definitely places the most blame on tourists.  In fact it is titled: Vanishing Clams on an Iberian Beach: Local Consequences and Global Implications of Accelerating Loss of Shells to TourismRead the whole study here.

So do we see negative effects from shell collecting?  I haven’t heard of any.  Just a doomsday story about how tourists are silently wrecking the beaches.  What I find incredibly typical is that all the comments after the “Hey Tourists” post have people apologizing for shelling, and promising to never do it again.  Lemmings.
Go ahead and take a few (unoccupied) shells home people… good grief.

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About Dustytoes

I grew up in New England but spent most of my life living in central Florida. Now I'm back up north and blog about seashells, beaches, gardening, boating, fishing, hiking, photography, PKD, and my work as a designer for Zazzle. I move around a lot and try to discover the best in all places I live. Life may be tough, but it's not boring.
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8 Responses to Does Collecting Seashells Really Harm Beaches?

  1. I think that is being really petty. There is nothing wrong with beach combing and taking shells or anything else from the beach come to that, Happy beach combing to all I say :)

  2. flandrumhill says:

    Although I disagree with killing animals just for their shells and cringe whenever I see shells for sale in the tourist shops, finding an empty shell on the beach is another matter. Here in Nova Scotia, I don’t think there are the large amounts of shellfish that inhabit warmer waters, so their presence or lack of it on our beaches probably has less of an impact on the ecosystem.

    On a lighter note, I often wonder if the mermaids have an opinion on this…

    • Dustytoes says:

      It’s so good to hear from you. It’s still beautiful up there in the north where you live. Love your post about mermaids and the ocean pictures.

  3. Jody says:

    I’m with you! Most beach communities encourage beachcombing as a harmless hobby. Of course, I don’t collect in marine sanctuaries and other sites where collecting is off limits. But, give me a break!! I say: I won’t bother them if they chose not to collect and they shouldn’t bother me if I do. ~Great post!

    • Dustytoes says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting Jody. I just hate how people think they have to immediately jump on the bandwagon without considering how foolish it might be. Get shelling! ;)

  4. timelesslady says:

    Oh how I loved your post! I am an AVID shell collector. Doesn’t matter to me if the shell is an oyster or a clam, or a humble periwinkle. I love the collecting. I have plastic shoeboxes filled with shells and seaglass and driftwood. Someday I’ll figure out a good project to make with them. What nonsense…don’t pick up shells. Shame on those who shame us for anything and everything. I’m going to have to follow this blog. I like finding people who think like me. Happy day to you! Kathy

    • Dustytoes says:

      Hi Kathy, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Yes, some people get carried away and forget that they have their own minds – just think people! Thank you also for the follow, and have a happy, shell-collecting day!

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