Sea Shells that are Illegal to be Taken from the Beach

If she sells seashells by the seashore, you might want to check if these shells are illegal to be sold or taken.

Gathering and collecting seashells. It is an activity that does not look harmful. Most of us loved doing it when we were kids and even now that we’re kids-at-heart. You go to the beach, walk by the shore, pick up shells along the way, and take them home, where they would be sitting on a table or buried under a pile of other things in your room. No harm done, right? Not.

Philippine laws protect some types of shells. The 2001 Fisheries Administrative Order 208 protects rare, threatened, and endangered species that taking or catching them except for scientific research purposes is punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years or fine of up to P120,000 or both.

Cebu Green Trade Organization (GTO), a non-profit organization that groups all shell and shell craft exporters in Cebu, released a poster showing these forbidden shells.

Shells that are protected by Philippine laws. Click photo to enlarge.
Shells that are protected by Philippine laws. When in doubt, just leave it. Poster by GTO. Click photo to enlarge.

You might be asking: What’s the big deal? They’re just shells.

That’s the thing. They are not just shells. They, even those empty ones, play an important role in the ecology of our beaches and oceans. These shells act as shelter to some types of crabs and smaller marine lifeforms and their protection from predators and wave exposure. In a GMA News interview with Ms. Ludivina Labe, Senior Marine Biologist at the Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources, said, “Seashells are among the major players in this web of life… [The] decimation or loss of seashell [populations] … would result in ecological imbalance.” Some types of shells also help combat ocean acidification. Shelled mollusks play a part in the chemical cycle in our oceans.

Lastly, given the staggering number of tourists and how fast these numbers rise, if each visitor takes one shell from the beach, imagine how many shells will be left in the sea, where they truly belong.

shells for sale philippines
She sells seashells by the seashore

So if she sells seashells by the seashore, don’t buy. If you want souvenirs, there are many other products out there. You can take lots of photos; it’s free.

The rules of beach bumming are simple: What belongs to the beach, stays on the beach. Take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time, and — you know the drill — leave nothing but footprints.

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  • Mika Hime

    Uh, no matter how many tourist collects seashells, the amount being produced will be the same. Shells are left overs of animals and abandoned. The only thing that will happen if you decided to leave them be is that they will wash away to another shore or slowly be destroyed by the currents and waves. The only thing I am against is selling shells to tourist OR obtaining a shell with a living creature.