Not everything that washes ashore in the Florida Keys is up for grabs, especially mollusks.
A tourist learned the hard way that collecting 40 queen conchs to give away as gifts is illegal.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer arrested 30-year-old Diana Fiscal-Gonzalez in Key West after someone reported the woman. The tourist was spotted with a group of children collecting the state-protected mollusks.
#Dallas #woman #arrested in #KeyWest for collecting #conch #shells as gifts, said she didn’t know it was illegal to… https://t.co/T1KN9ZCfZu— Billy MacLeod (@Billy MacLeod) 1532031983.0
The tourist from Dallas plead no contest and apologized to Judge Mark Wilson inside the Monroe County Courthouse on July 13.
The Miami-Herald reported that the judge withheld adjudication, but she will be required to serve six months probation and pay a $500 fine. Fiscal-Gonzalez will also be expected to surrender to Florida law enforcement on August 10 to begin her 15-day jail sentence.
An example of a queen conch.(World News/YouTube)
FWC Officer John Martino found the conch collector in plain sight with three plastic containers and a hose in the middle of the driveway. Fiscal-Gonzalez was hosing them clean with the intention of giving them away to friends.
Diana Fiscal-Gonzalez (R)(News Edition/YouTube)
@FoxNews How shelfish! 😂— Tough Texan 🇺🇸 (@Tough Texan 🇺🇸) 1532067986.0
Martino said most of the conch Fiscal-Gonzalez collected were still alive. The FWC officer returned them to the ocean after archiving the filched mollusks with a photo.
According to the FWC, taking empty conch shells is not a crime, but harvesting a live specimen of the saltwater organism is illegal.
But some people were still confused.
@FOX5Atlanta I didn't realize it was illegal to collect sea shells.— Brandi (@Brandi) 1532070030.0
Woman sentenced to jail for taking 40 queen conchs in the Florida Keys ~ who would know that’s illegal? I’ve been t… https://t.co/KtBN3amG1O— PhillyChitChat (@PhillyChitChat) 1532055570.0
Seashells are different in that they are the empty vessels without any living organism.
If the house is empty, collecting it is OK.
Mollusks are invertebrates that often use outer shells to protect their soft bodies from predators and the environment. Living Queen conch are comprised of a species of sea snail and the shell in which they reside.
When a conch dies, its shell is left behind.
Conchs are native to the coasts of the Caribbean, the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and Bermuda.
The Queen conch variety is a protected species in the Florida Keys.
@FoxNews Not shells. Live animals. Big difference— thomas switala (@thomas switala) 1532115539.0
@HughE_Dillon Omg so many questions! They weren’t shells, they were actually live! How was she getting them back to… https://t.co/Zd9X5Lb9IH— Chef Barbie Marshall (@Chef Barbie Marshall) 1532056503.0
The conch is a vital part of the Florida Keys culture. The Keys are even nicknamed the Conch Republic.
USA Today said that the locals refer to themselves as the Conchs. Even the local high school football team is given the name, The Fighting Conchs.
Many reactions to Fiscal-Gonzalez breaking the law were of general shock and dismay, but one Twitter user thought her arrest was justified.
@jasonagastrich @BBC This is why the locals distrust all the tourists. Lobster fishing out of season, touching the… https://t.co/DuuqQbELU8— Kipp (@Kipp) 1532087142.0
@HughE_Dillon Thankfully most were still alive— YUBpr (@YUBpr) 1532084632.0
The next time you consider pocketing a seashell along the beach in Florida, or anywhere that you don't know the wildlife laws, make sure the resident has already vacated.