Why seashells are getting harder to find on the seashore

At the beach, take only pictures, leave only footprints and sandcastles. The mollusks have enough problems already.

Sunrise falls on a lightning whelk on the beach at Sanibel Island in southwestern Florida, where collection of live shelled animals is banned.
Photograph by Martin Shields, Getty Images

In 1973, when Melissa Greene was in 6th grade, her parents bought the first condo at a new Florida beachfront development on Hutchinson Island on the southeastern Atlantic coast.

The first time she and her siblings ran down to the wild shore, they were shocked by the contrast to their earlier beach trips to Daytona, a people-packed spectacle of cars and cruising. On Hutchinson, the spectacle was the seashells.

Every tide left a wrack line of conchs and whelks, nutmegs and tulip shells, shark’s eyes as big as a half-dollar and brown-speckled cowries as large as Greene’s hand. Down the beach, a driftwood forest captured still more shells, along with starfish and crabs and marine egg cases of all kinds.

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