Should we buy shells as souvenirs?
Several thousand shell-collecting tourists a year can rapidly deplete shell populations in a given area. The reef is denuded to the detriment of the entire reef system and often to the local community who depend on a healthy reef for their subsistence.
When visiting tropical locations, shells may be offered for sale at tourist markets, a consequence of the impressive demand we create. It is important to be aware of what you are purchasing, as the ecological effects can be devastating. Molluscs are extremely diverse. Some are carnivores feeding on small fish and urchins. The Triton's Trumpet is one of a handful of animals to keep reef plague species such as the Crown of Thorns starfish in check. Others are herbivores that eat algae, some filter feed while others consume the waste products of other animals.
Many of the approximately 5,000 species involved in the shell trade worldwide, are reef species. Many vulnerable species include narrow endemics with small populations. Easily accessible, species such as conchs, cones, cowries, trochus, volutes and trumpets are decreasing in numbers due to the shell trade.
When shells wash up on a beach are often recycled as new homes for hermit crabs.
Learn more from following Odyssey logs:
'The Shell Trade'
"Renowned for the brilliance of their attractive, bright patterned colors and often their rarity, the temptation to purchase shells as souvenirs can be irresistible. An impulsive purchase can spell disaster for the local reef."
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Listen to the Odyssey log:
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