“Leave shells where they lay or snap a photo of a marine critter in the sand. After all, the point of enjoying nature is because it is in a natural state,” posted the Delaware Seashore State Park.
Seashells are becoming scarce.
What used to be a joy for beachcombers to see or collect as souvenirs many years ago, these marine wonders are now best left alone where we find them. That is, if you are lucky to see any of them nowadays on beaches where they naturally belong.
To think, there was even a time when seashells were used as a currency. The Money Cowrie (C. moneta) and Ring Cowrie (C. annulus) were especially used as shell money, although other cowries were also valued in China, starting around 1200 AD.
By the first century AD, India was also using cowries as coins, which then reached Africa through Arab traders in 800 AD. Upon the arrival of the Europeans, who had a vast wealth of seashells back home, they used it as money in exchange for gold, slaves, and other goods that African tribes were thrilled to provide.
However, by the middle of the 20th century, the use of seashells as money ended.
Nevertheless, it is not its currency usage that is behind the scarcity of seashells today. A lot of factors have been causing the demise of mollusks and other creatures that produce these small wonders.
And sometimes they’re not so small. Some seashells are big, just like the Australian Trumpet which is created by a giant sea snail and can measure up to 35 inches. There is another seashell that is even larger, growing up to more than one meter across, made by the giant clam Tridacna gigas that can live more than 100 years.
The Queen Conch also has a considerably large shell at 30 centimeters, or 1 foot, with a lifespan of up to 40 years. It spends that time not in further enlarging its home but in thickening its lovely shell.
However, big or small, many mollusk species and other creatures that produce shells are dying from pollution, global warming, ocean acidification, fishing pressure, and even undertakings to restore a degraded beach.
And then there’s mass tourism.
“It is not so much individual collecting as the many ramifications of massive tourism,” explained paleobiologist Michal Kowalewski at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “Mass tourism means more boats, more beach maintenance, more machinery, all contributing to changes in shorelines.”
Another sad thing that was discovered by ecologists is that “the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature — the official gauge for the staggering decline of animals now underway around the world — severely underestimates loss of invertebrates, which make up an estimated 97 percent of all creatures.”
And so, Delaware is right for pursuing its “Leave No Trace” plan for decades.
A similar sentiment was expressed in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by George Gordon Byron:
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”