We all like to take a memento or souvenir home with us to remind us, in the years to come, of a great vacation. If it was a beach holiday then that may include taking a seashell or two home with you. But can you take seashells on a plane?
You can take seashells though the security checkpoint at the airport and onto a plane with you in your carry on bag and you may also put them in your checked bags.
You will need to ensure that that if taking them into the US or another country that they meet the regulations regarding their import as some shells are protected.
Can you take seashells through airport security
There are no restrictions on taking seashells through a security checkpoint at the airport in the US. They can be left in your carry on when the bag goes through the x-ray machine so you do not need to remove them and place them in a tray.
As seashells are generally quite small and light there is really no restriction on the quantity you can take through airport security either.
The TSA offer a very good service on Twitter where you can ask a specific question about whether you can take something through the security checkpoint and they will respond quickly.
This is an example response to a passenger’s question regarding carrying seashells:
Can you take seashells in your carry on?
There are no restrictions on taking seashells through a security checkpoint at the airport, provided they are empty so do not still contain the sea creature. They can be left in your carry on when the bag goes through the x-ray machine so you do not need to remove them and place them in a tray.
Can you take seashells in your checked bags?
You can carry seashells in your checked bags without restriction. Remember thought that if taking them through Customs you will need to declare them – see below.
Can you bring seashells through Customs?
Firstly, you should declare any seashells you may have when entering the US from outside.
The United States Department of Agriculture website states the following in their page International Traveler: Souvenirs –
Seashells. Although many varieties of seashells collected from saltwater beaches are enterable without restriction, certain countries limit the collection, sale, and export of shells and shell products. The importation or exportation of certain species of seashells (e.g., queen conch and nautilus) from some countries are restricted under international agreements. For more information on the status of seashells, coral, and a wide variety of other items you may find offered for sale in gift shops overseas, please review the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) web pages Tips traveling to the Caribbean and Caribbean Traveler’s Guide Brochure: Buyer’s Beware
USDA does restrict/regulate the entry of land snails/shells and many species of freshwater snails/shells, because many foreign snail species are considered to be invasive pests that could cause harm to U.S. agriculture and the environment.
If you are traveling to another country and want to take any seashells with you then you should check with the relevant authority before taking them in.
Is it legal to take seashells from a beach?
It can be illegal to take seashells from beaches in some countries of the world, even in the US under certain circumstances. For example, taking Conch shells that are still alive (have the creature inside) is illegal in Florida.
Even if it is legal to take them, perhaps you should ask yourself, “Is it morally or environmentally right”. If you take an empty shell then you may be denying a hermit crab its next home when it outgrows its current one.
You certainly shouldn’t collect live shell creatures from the sea and remove the animal to take the shell home as a souvenir. The same goes for breaking off pieces of coral to take home.
You should also realize that even if you don’t collect them yourself, but buy them in a shop instead, that most of these shells are harvested from the seabed to sell to tourists with the animal still inside, which is killed and removed. Please don’t support this trade.
You should have no problems taking shells in any quantity with you when traveling in your carry on bag but please consider the factors above before you do.
Have a good and stress free flight.