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California Shells



Can one collect shells in California?


The answer is yes providing that a few basic rules are followed:


1) dead shells can be collected in  non-protected areas.


2) Live mollusks can be collected by someone holding a current sportfishing license as follows:


a) "In state parks, state beaches, state recreation areas, state underwater parks, state reserves, national parks, national monumentsor national seashores, abalones, chiones clams, cockles, rock scallops and native oysters ... may be taken."


b) "In all other areas, except where prohibited within marine life refuges or other special closures. Abalone, limpets, moon snails, turban snails, chiones clams, cockles, mussels, rock scallops, native oysters, octopuses, squid, ... may be taken."


c) For species not listed above, "Tidal invertebrates may not be taken in any tidepool or other areas between the high tide mark (defined as Mean Higher High Tide) and 1,000 feet seaward and lateral to the low tide mark (defined as Mean Lower Low Water)."


In other words, in California one can only legally collect live specimens of the edible mollusks listed above from a beach or tidepool. All other mollusks can only be legally live-collected 1,000 feet out from the low tide line.



Shell Collecting in California:

The rules and regulations


by Phil Liff-Grieff


There is much confusion around shell collecting rules in California. In order to clarify what is and is not allowed, we opt, every few years, to delineate the specifics of the rules and regulations of the California Department of Fish and Game. To most accurately describe the current rules, we will quote directly from the 2003 regulations