Winter is a perfect time for the beach and for collecting seashells

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
January 5, 2019 10:00 a.m.

The quarterly Gone Coastal column is one of many ways the FWC Division of Marine Fisheries Management is helping recreational anglers understand complex saltwater regulations and learn more about saltwater fishing opportunities and issues in Florida. We are also available to answer questions by phone or email anytime, and we would love the opportunity to share information through in-person presentations with recreational or commercial fishing organizations. To contact the FWC’s Regulatory Outreach subsection, call 850-487-0554 or email [email protected].


When most people think of Florida’s sandy beaches, they think warm, sunny summer. But what the locals already know is that winter at the beach has tons to offer.

The sand and water may be cold, but it’s a perfect time for looking for seashells.

Maybe it’s because less people are on the beach, or maybe it’s the cold weather and winter storms washing them ashore, but the beach always seems full of seashells and other great finds during the winter months.

As a former island dweller, seashells have become an integral part of my home decorating scheme. They make great containers for Q-tips, candles and jewelry. Some act as decoration atop a cabinet, while others have been turned into craft projects such as a necklace or windchime. Little jars of sharks’ teeth collected throughout the years are tucked away. I even have a shell from my daughter’s first trip to the beach, labeled with the date. A little reminder of paradise.

While collecting is fun, leaving behind seashells and other marine organisms can also benefit our beaches, which is why I always limit what I take. Shells provide protection for creatures such as hermit crabs and can be hiding places for small fish. They also help stabilize beaches and anchor seagrass.

But if you do want to take home a few souvenirs, it’s important to know there are some rules when it comes to recreational seashell collection on Florida’s beaches.

The major thing to keep in mind when you are collecting is, if it’s dead, it most likely is OK to keep.

Do not keep anything that is federally protected (i.e. sea turtles, sawfish or parts thereof).

If a seashell has a living organism inside it or is a living organism (think sand dollars and starfish), you must have a Florida saltwater fishing license (unless exempt) and you must adhere to state and local limits for that species.

It’s also good to know that there are a few species prohibited from harvest, such as the Bahama starfish and live queen conch. You may collect queen conch shells when the shells do not contain any living queen conch at the time of collection.

Special rules also apply if you are collecting in Lee or Manatee counties.

To learn more about FWC’s regulations on recreational seashell collecting, visit and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Sea Shells.” For a fishing license, visit

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