Thursday, June 13, 2024

Environmental risks of collecting shellfish on the beach

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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When we walk by the ocean, collecting shells on the beach may seem like a fun and harmless activity. Who among us has never been tempted to bring home these little nautical treasures as vacation souvenirs? However, this seemingly harmless practice has more serious environmental consequences than one might think.

Oysters play a crucial role in maintaining coastal ecosystems, and collecting them can upset this delicate balance. It is important to understand why shells must be left on the beach to preserve not only the natural beauty of our coasts, but also the biodiversity that depends on them.

Why not collect seashells from the beach?

Collecting shells from the beach may seem harmless, but it has serious environmental impacts. Shells provide shelter and protection for various marine species, such as hermit crabs and small fish.

In addition, they help maintain the structure of the beach. Indeed, they prevent erosion and contribute to the formation of sand dunes. Removing these shells can alter the natural balance of coastal ecosystems. This leads to loss of biodiversity and habitat degradation.

a University of Florida study 2014 reveals that on some tourist beaches, up to 60% of oysters are harvested each year. This practice has led to a significant decline in hermit crab numbers.

In addition, accelerated erosion has been observed on the island of Minorca, Spain, over the past two decades. The huge collection of oysters is partly responsible. This practice doesn’t just affect local wildlife. It also has a negative impact on the economy. In fact, many coastal communities depend on tourism and fishing, activities affected by the degradation of the natural environment.

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The role that shells found on the beach play in the marine environment

Shells are not just natural decorations; They play a vital role in the marine ecosystem. They provide a habitat for marine organisms such as algae, sponges and molluscs. These organisms are part of a larger food chain that supports fish and seabirds.

Follower research Many mollusk species appear to depend on shellfish for their survival. In addition, decomposing shells nourish the seafloor, releasing essential minerals and nutrients that encourage the growth of new plants and animals.

By removing shells, we interrupt this natural cycle. This affects multiple species and the overall balance of the ecosystem. In Australia, a 60% decline in hermit crab numbers was observed in areas where shellfish were intensively fished.

This loss doesn’t just affect cancers. But it also has a domino effect on the birds and fish that depend on it as a food source. Therefore, leaving shells in place is crucial to maintaining the health and diversity of marine ecosystems.

Imprisonment sentences in some countries

In many countries, such as the United States, Australia, Italy, and France, strict laws prohibit shell collecting in certain protected areas.

For example, in Yanchep National Park in Australia, violators face fines of up to A$5,000. In Sardinia, Italy, fines of up to 3,000 euros have been imposed since 2017 for collecting sand and shells, in order to preserve the beaches.

In France, in the Calanques National Park near Marseille, a ban is in effect on collecting shells, corals and other marine items. This is to protect fragile ecosystems. Fines can reach several thousand euros.

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Public Service France He remembers: “ It is prohibited to collect sand on the beach. Environmental law considers its removal to be an assault on the public marine domain, leading to the weakening of the coastline. However, it is possible to collect aeolian sand (carried by the wind from the beach onto the road or sidewalks). Authorities may tolerate collection when done in small quantities. Unreasonable collection, sometimes for commercial purposes, is punishable by a fine of up to 1500 euros. For empty shells, the restrictions are the same as for sand. »

These regulations protect biodiversity and natural habitats. Penalties range from heavy fines to prison sentences. In Florida, in the United States, collecting live shells remains strictly prohibited. Violators could receive fines of $500 or even criminal charges. In Hawaii, collecting certain types of shells can result in a 30-day jail sentence.

Collecting seashells may seem harmless, but it has serious effects on the marine environment. It can also lead to serious legal consequences. It is crucial that tourists and locals understand the importance of leaving shells in place to preserve coastal ecosystems and avoid legal penalties. By respecting these rules, we contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and the preservation of beaches for future generations.

via com.iflscience

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