Does Collecting Seashells Really Harm Beaches?

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

Atlantic Giant cockle shells

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.

east coast florida beach shells
Seashells and beach finds along the east coast of Florida

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.

Do Angels Shed Their Wings?

Angel wing shells
Angel Wings

If angels ever need to give their wings a rest, I imagine they shed them along the Florida coast or over the shallow water where they eventually wash up on shore for us to find in the form of long white seashells.
The Angel Wing (Cyrtopleura costata) shells look just as you would picture them to look. They can be up to 8 inches long and even though my story imagines them being “dropped” in Florida, they can be found all the way up the east coast of the U. S. to the state of Massachusetts and in the south, to Texas and Brazil.

The ones shown here are courtesy of the Florida Sheller Blog, so check out his wonderful assortment of shells.

Can the Mangroves Survive This Oil Spill?

The first time I heard of the oil drilling platform disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I immediately thought about Sanibel Island – and the Florida and gulf coastline – that is home to a huge and diverse variety of land and marine animals, including the mollusks.

The oil spill will affect every living thing in those waters in a very negative way.  And mollusks, the animals in the shells, live at all depths of the ocean, but an important area for not only mollusks, but fish, birds, reptiles and other wildlife is the mangrove areas.

The mangroves, where many animals thrive, are plants living near or in the water line along the coast or inlets in salt water. Typically the mangrove trees have lots of roots above and below water and aid in protecting the coast from erosion. They are also home to many types of mollusks. The water is saline, or brackish, but shallow and serves as a place of protection among the root systems.  Oil on mangrove roots kills the trees by not allowing oxygen in.

In fact, “Florida’s fisheries would suffer a dramatic decline without access to healthy mangrove habitats.” is an excerpt taken from “Ichthyology” in the section about the importance of mangroves and how they serve as breeding grounds for all kinds of fish and mollusks as well as shrimp and oysters.  This page tells of the detrimental impact of disasters, including oil spills and it leaves me wondering how on earth an oil spill this enormous can ever be cleaned up before catastrophic damage is done.

Mollusks, either eat plants and algae or other animals.  If their food sources are covered in oil, or the creatures they eat have been affected by the oil, it will be passed on to the creature who eats it.  If the mangroves die, where will marine life go who depend on mangrove areas for protection and how will a lack of protection from erosion affect our coastline and the fishing industry?

I suppose that only long term studies can tell us exactly how great an impact this latest disaster has been, but I am not looking forward to the results when what we can see already is so disturbing.

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