Beachcombing for rare and beautiful seashells is a popular pastime for many Australians. But have you ever stopped to consider the legalities of your collection?
Contrary to popular belief, you can't just pick up and take home any shell that takes your fancy. Here are some of the rules you need to follow.
For the most part, it's perfectly legal to collect seashells from Australian beaches provided they are not occupied by living creatures. However, there are restrictions in place for certain geographical areas - some of which are legally enforceable.
Zoning schemes are designed to protect vulnerable marine species and habitats. The rules within different zones vary, and can include set limitations on the type and number of shells that may be removed for recreational purposes.
For example, Batemans Marine Park in NSW requires shell collectors to obtain a permit if they wish to collect more than 10 kg of shells and/or shell grit. Others impose a recreational "bag limit" of anywhere between five and 50 shells per day.
In addition to the above, collecting shells in national parks and nature reserves where flora and fauna are protected is strictly prohibited. (To ascertain a beach's protection status, simply google its name and check on the relevant .gov site.)
It's also a good idea to avoid collecting vulnerable or protected shell species - even if the shell appears unoccupied. (This includes certain varieties of helmet, trumpet and clam shell.) If you're keen to add one of these to your collection, you're going to need a Marine Parks permit.
With all that said, it's usually fine to take home empty shells you find on public beaches. Just try not to go overboard and ensure that they're actually empty!