The following is a summary of regulations regarding the recreational collection of sea shells in Florida.
Depending on whether or not the harvested sea shell contains a living organism, the type of organism it contains and where you will be collecting, the recreational collection of sea shells is permitted. A valid commercial saltwater products license is required to sell shells containing live organisms.
All species of live clams, oysters and mussels are regulated under the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. Oysters (68B-27, F.A.C. ) and hard clams (68B-17, F.A.C. ) can only be harvested in accordance FWC rules, and all species of clam, oyster or mussel can only be harvested from designated approved or conditionally approved shellfish harvesting areas that are in the open status as determined by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Division of Aquaculture.
License Requirement: A Florida recreational saltwater fishing license (resident or non-resident, whichever is applicable) is required in order to harvest a sea shell containing a living organism, even when harvesting from shore. See shoreline fishing FAQs for more information.
Closed and Restricted Areas: In Lee County, you may not harvest or possess any shells that contain a live organism except for oysters, hard clams, sunray venus clams and coquinas.
In Manatee County, you may not harvest or possess more than two shells containing live organisms of any single species except for oysters, hard clams, sunray venus clams and coquinas.
Also, the harvest of certain species may be limited or prohibited in state or federal parks, national wildlife refuges and portions of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Interested persons should contact those park areas for further information.
Prohibited Species: All harvest of the Bahama Starfish (Oreaster reticulatis) is prohibited. Possession of live Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) at any time is prohibited. It is not unlawful to possess queen conch shells in Florida as long as the shells do not contain any living queen conch at the time of collection, and so long as a living queen conch is not killed, mutilated, or removed from its shell prior to collection. Possession of conch meat or a queen conch shell having an off-center hole larger than 1/16 inch in diameter through its spire is prohibited.
Bag Limits: Seasons, bag limits, and other regulations must be followed for species that are regulated by the FWC, such as bay scallops even when these species are not collected for food. The bag limit for marine life (tropical ornamental) species is 20 organisms per person per day. As of July 1, 2009, only five of any one marine life species is allowed within the 20-organism marine life bag limit. For unregulated species, more than 100 pounds or 2 fish per person per day (whichever is greater) is considered commercial quantities and requires a saltwater products license.