Who does not enjoyed when child collecting those shells on the beach that had been abandoned in the sand by the tide… This innocent activity doesn´t carry any damage or disturbance of wildlife and the corrresponding habitats. The problem arises when the collection takes place in the natural habitats of mollusks and when the number of collected shells is unreasonably high. Those are the main problems currently associated with collectors irresponsibility.

A collection of shells should be governed by a scientific basis and not just reduced to a set of beautiful shells and/or rare to show to your friends. Firstly, it must be a way to know the nature and be closer to it, not a way to destroy it. Unfortunately, the mollusks are seriously affected by water pollution and the indiscriminate destruction of their. Therefore, it is essential not to increase these problems through an uncontrolled sampling with collecting purposes. In 1972, the Malacological European Unity, the association that brings together the main malacologist around the world, urged all its members to drastically reduce the catch of shells and apply thebasic rules for the protection of mollusks and their environments.

The collection of living animals in general and mollusks in particular, is a hugely prosperous industry worldwide. An irresponsible collecting, based on the purchase and exchange of massive amounts of specimens, and not on one's own collection, along with the purchase of souvenirs made from shells ends up being the source of financing for large groups of fishermen and divers from underdeveloped countries, that plunder the rich bottoms of their exotic waters. Often, these fishermen and divers are risking their lives to earn miserable salaries and enrich, as usual in these cases, a few warlords who are the real beneficiaries of a trade almost always illegal.

One could make an almost endless list with decorative objects made wholly or partly with shells that can be found in every coastal city. We do not need to go to China or Taiwan; in the same Andalusian Costa del Sol one can find in any souvenir shop in the beach necklaces, vases, boats, lamps, earrings, candles, pendants, bracelets, bags, boxes, ridiculous and decorative objects whith drippy design for a tourist who wants to take a souvenir of their stay on the beach. Well, the purchase of such items, in addition to violating the so fashion sustainable development, may be absurd since if we simply inform a little and realise that 99% of the shells that decorate these souvenirs, including those sold in the famous baskets at wholesale (and which are always broken, of course), come from the Philippines. Therefore, when you buy a souvenir shells based on the Costa del Sol, you are buying a souvenir of the Philippines, curious...Isn´t you?

Leaving aside the source of the shells that are used to make souvenirs, what is really important about this case is that the human mind seems to have no limits when design products and gadgets using mollusks, the most useless. Obviously the main claim of such products is the beauty of the shells, although there is a large group of people that also feels attracted by the mystique often given to shells. Shells of mollusks have played various notable roles in some societies and civilizations most already extinct (as an object of worship, as currency or as a symbol of authority).

Caring for nature and its species is in the hand of all. As we have seen collecting can be tremendously harmful to the natural environment, but can only. Whether it is or not is our responsibility. The shell collectors have the vast fortune that mollusks no longer need their shells when they die. It is therefore a matter of utilization of such material remaining in the environment and that anyway ultimately decompose.

Then I propose a series of simple tips in order to get your activity as shell collector is consistent with the preservation of biodiversity, as it is so fashionable now to say, is as sustainable as possible:

Leave everything in the place where it was found; repositioning large or small rocks, and the vegetation which has been moved; cover the holes you make and the burrows you have looked into.

Avoid collecting live specimens at all costs, focusing on empty shells. Otherwise, take only one shell of each species, or two at most for a possible trade. Of course, never take protected species alive (included in catalogues and red national or regional books of endangered species)

Do not ever withdraw completely a species from a given area

Do not collect inmature specimens who have not yet been reproduced

Respecting the areas of reforestation

Do not buy or exchange species protected by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), especially when the exporting country signed the Convention. In you contact with a collector that offers the possibility of supply protected species (or included in CITES) because customs control measures are scarce or through any other trick, try to be responsible and not leave blinded by the burning desire to get these species. You should think we are many collectors around the world so if we all behave irresponsibly ......

Carry out a responsible tourism, and not contribute to pollution and destruction of coastal habitats and seabeds

Collect your own shells, reducing to the extent possible the purchase, especially if the sources of supply of such purchases are unknown or suspicious. If you want to make shell exchanges, have sufficient guarantees that the sources providing your shells are governed by our ethic code

Collecting for educational purposes. Your collection must have a priority pedagogical objective, bringing the natural world to the other people, obviously within the context of ethical standards of conduct for good collector that I have just related