I just returned from St. John a couple of days ago. The customs officer in St. Thomas told me that I was not allowed to take the shells with me and they were confiscated. They were mostly shell fragments collected from the beaches, nothing live, nothing taken from the water. Has anyone else had this happen. Is it true that I can't take the shell fragments from the beach? I have not read this any where. The customs officer told me that if everyone came and took the shells there wouldn't be any left. I am certain that customs is not going to deposit my tiny collection back on the beach.
Sounds like you went through Atlanta! LOL
I have heard of this also - not being confiscated but being told not to take shells (like they are going to run out?) Is this actually a problem?
I can understand the consept but . . .shells?
As you were coming from St. John it was more than likely the Customs officer's opinion that the shells were removed from the National Park. You cannot remove anything from the National Parks. Sorry -
Hello Candi and Grinder,
You are not allowed to remove anything dead or alive from the National Park. If the thousands of visitors we have each took a zip lock bag of shells home or even one shell each there wouldn't be many left. I learned this lesson on a 4th grade field trip to St. John Reef Bay Trail - I was collecting shells and got picked out to be made an example of by the teacher and the ranger of how visitors to the National Park can ruin things 🙁 The lesson has stuck with me after allllll these years, I even used the same reasoning you mentioned - but the shells and sand aren't going to run out... that earned me writing an essay about not removing things from the park.
In any case I just called Customs at the Airport and they said: It is illegal to remove shells from any beach within the US Virgin Islands (all the islands and not just St. John) and try to leave the island with them. They will be confiscated.
On another note - Candi How was your trip to St. John?? Where did you stay, any restaurant suggestions, favorite beaches - inquiring minds want to use your opinions to plan their vacation!!
Our trip was wonderful! We stayed at the Coconut Coast.The accomodations were fine. We opted to stay there because we had 6 people and wanted kitchen facilties.
Favorite restaurant was Miss Lucy's. Favorite snorkeling spot was Waterlemon Cay. (Followed by Salt Pond). Favorite bar was the Beach Bar.
Thanks for calling customs to verify. Had I known, I wouldn't have collected any. I even asked a life guard at Trunk Bay for suggestions for collecting shells. He told me rocky beaches, but never mentioned that I could not take them. You would think he would know that. Also in customs, they have signs about not taking food, fruit, animals, plants, etc. but none about sea shells. Nor are there any signs posted at beaches.
As a matter of fact, most websites describing St. John's beaches mention collected shells, but nothing about not taking them. They do say it is illegal to take fans, coral and other sea life.
I didn't realize that we can't take shells from anywhere in the USVI. I knew about the policy in the National Park. It's the policy in all Parks, not only the VI. It also applies to not leaving anything there. Take nothing but photos and memories, leave nothing but footprints.
There was a time when the number of buffalo and whales seemed infinite too.
Glad to hear you had a good time Candi. I also knew the rules about St. John and the park but didn't know it applied to all beaches in the USVI - you learn something new everyday!! I will definately see to making a note in our beach guides to let future visitors know that shell collecting is not allowed.
Yea - I figured the Natl Park was off limits but I suppose itmakes it easier to police by just saying no to all shells!
When we were at Coki Beach, 3 little kids, under 10 years old came up to us, selling conch Shells for two dollars each. I only wanted one, and I only had a ten. The kids said that was not a problem, they would go and get change and come back, I said “leave all your shells here for collateral”. We didn’t see them again, and I now have 3 conch shells on my deck! 🙂
My husband said he thought they didn’t know the meaning of the word collateral!! LOL!
When we picked up our bags, there was a sticker on my bag from TSA, those conch shells had caused a secondary search!
So if its illegal to take shells from the islands - what if I was to purchase a shell or starfish or some other form of souvineir like that, would customs be able to take that away from me? Should I keep all receipts if I do make a purchase like that??? Because I DEFINATELY am going to want some type of shell souvineir from my honeymoon to remember for a long time!!! And not just pictures! Its really good to know that shell collecting is illegal no matter if its from the National Park or not. I just hope there are alot of souvinier shops that have them available.....
Ellen -If you had walked right across the road from Coki -where the jet ski rentals are- you could have found all the conch shells you could ever want.
BTW: What is the TSA & were the shells confiscated?
Transportation Security Administration; a little additional information - you are not allowed to lock your luggage anymore so that you bags can be searched - if you lock them they will break the lock if they need to do a search. If they search your bag they leave a note/flyer in your luggage that says TSA Inspected - and other information on why, where, who ect. and then they often put a plastic lock type thing where a lock would normally go that I think also says TSA on it. Its a secondary inspection. The first inspection is when you are putting your bags through the scanner - and the inspectors might tell you to open the bag and take something out ect.
Diane - there are stores that sell loose shells and shells with writing on them, shells made into clocks or with drawings on them ect. They often look like souvenirs in my opionion even the loose ones- polished ect, and sometimes not even shells that are found here but that are really pretty all the same. Not sure the policy on this, I would say keep the shells in the packaging the store had it in with receipt.
A small aside: A lot of the shells that you get at the gift shops are imported from the Philippines and other Pacific venues!!!
When we left STT airport last week we asked a similar question re shells and TSA told us the only shells we could take with us were those we purchased and for which we had receipts. Original package + receipt as noted above is the way to go.
PH - I saw a bunch of the conch shells in the yard by the cemetery. I didn’t mind paying the kids; it was no big deal! Something similar happened to me when we were on Margarita Island, these little kids came by with shells, and I bought a couple $1.00 each; pretty soon there was a ton of kids swarming around me, I ended up with two big bags, I couldn’t say no! 🙂
Islander, you're correct, I saw the stickers across my locks when I picked up my bag, then there was a card inside saying they had inspected. My stuff was all in order, and I didn't care. However, after reading this discussion, I think it must have been the shells on xray that triggered them!
I was told once that they take away about 600 pounds of shells and coral from passengers every week! It really does add up!
You should keep receipts of ALL purchases for stuff you are bringing back!