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Date of Issue: February 04, 2009

State regs limit shell collecting

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Coquina shells
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Wading in
The waders that Mark Kevin Harmon and Brian Bryant of Cincinnati purchased for their vacation on Anna Mara Island proved a worthwhile investment. Looking for shells, Harmon waded about 200 feet into the water near the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria Jan. 27 and found a sizable Bahama Sea Star starfish, as well as many average size starfish. "I've never seen anything like it," Harmon said of the large starfish. The state regulates the taking of certain live shells, sand dollars and starfish, including the Bahama Sea Star, which is considered fairly common to the area, according to Mote Marine Laboratory. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The arrival of the winter season does not bring snow to Anna Maria Island, but it does bring a flurry of activity to local beaches.

Some of the activity involves lying in the sun for long stretches – hopefully with sunscreen protection.

And some of the activity involves collecting sea shells on the shore or in the shallow waters.

Collectors should be aware of state statutes and conservation regulations that apply to recreational shell collecting.

The collection of shells is generally permitted, but the taking of shells containing live organisms is regulated at the state level.

Generally, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires that residents and non-residents have a recreational saltwater fishing license to harvest a sea shell containing a live organism.

In Manatee County, at the urging of local officials, the state has limited collectors to harvesting or possessing no more than two shells containing live organisms of any single species, except for oysters, hard clams, sunray venus clams and coquinas. The rule applies to mollusks and echinoderms, including tulips, whelks, conchs, olives, augers, scallops, cockles, mussels, starfish, sand dollars, sea urchins and sea biscuits.

Also, the harvest of the Bahama Starfish and just the possession of a live Queen Conch is against the law in Florida.

Law enforcement officers might remind collectors of the law regarding the collection of shells.

Conservationists might quote from a book frequently checked out of the public library. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in “Gift From the Sea,” wrote, “One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.”