The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) does not restrict seashells or sea glass.
However, a few international agreements regulate the export of certain natural objects.
Seashells can make beautiful decorations and great mementos of a vacation. That’s why it would be a shame if you got them almost all the way home only for airport security to confiscate them because of some unknown regulation.
So, let’s explore how you can avoid getting your shells taken on either an international or domestic flight.
What Does the TSA Say About Seashells?
When you’re collecting seashells, you may wonder, can you bring seashells on a plane?
Well, it turns out that the Transportation Security Administration has next to nothing to say on seashells. They just let you know that you can bring seashells on a plane in either personal or checked baggage.
Overall, since seashells do not pose a threat to the airport or the plane, the TSA does not care if you bring them on the plane.
Where Should I Pack Seashells?
Now that you know you can bring seashells on the plane, you need to decide whether to pack them in your checked bags or carry-on baggage.
A TSA officer will not require you to pack them in one bag or the other. From their standpoint, you can put them in either checked bags or carry-on bags.
So, you just need to decide which bag will have a lower chance of your shells breaking while you’re returning to your destination country.
If you pack them in your carry-on, you can ensure that the agents at the airport security checkpoint do not handle them roughly. Additionally, you won’t have to take the shells out of your suitcase for the x-ray.
On the other hand, you want to save space for things you might need in your carry-on, especially for long international flights. And, as long as you pad any fragile shells, you shouldn’t have any break in your checked baggage.
Thus, in the end, the decision is yours.
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Are There any Seashell Considerations Aside From Security?
You should know that airport security is not your only hurdle. If you are flying internationally, you will also have to consider customs.
You will have to go through the customs declaration process for any seashells you’ve bought or found when you reach your destination country.
Many countries have specific rules about what shells you can have when flying internationally. So, customs will sometimes restrict a seashell or conch shell as well as certain plants, woods, and coral.
In the US, the primary concern comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). APHIS, a branch of the United States government, wants to ensure that no harmful pests or invasive species enter the US.
Overall, APHIS allows you to bring saltwater seashells as long as they are clean of any dirt or sand that might carry microorganisms that pose a significant pest or disease threat. Fesh water shells have similar rules.
Thus, when you go through customs, a Homeland Security or Customs and Border Protection officer will inspect the shells to ensure you can bring them into the US without risk. And, ultimately, they have the final determination about what shells you can take into the US.
Plus, you should also know that it isn’t always legal to take shells from their habitat. Two examples include the nautilus and queen conch shells.
If you are thinking about taking seashells of this type from the Caribbean, remember that you will need a permit to bring them into another country. And in some cases, it is simply illegal.
Also, you can not take a conch shell with a living organism in them from Florida. And, in Hawaii, you can’t remove any sand or even dead coral.
So, be sure to thoroughly research the laws and regulations of your destination, even when flying on domestic flights.
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Ethical and Moral Considerations
Even when there aren’t any laws against collecting seashells or conch shells, you should consider the impact on the seaside.
Usually, when you find an empty shell on the beach and take it home, there is little impact. But consider that many people who go to the beach want to take home a souvenir.
Thus, shells can disappear from tourist beaches rather quickly.
And even if you collect the shells ethically by ensuring there’s nothing living in them, that doesn’t mean that others will. Eventually, there is a significant impact on the seaside.
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You should always pay attention to rules when bringing a shell or even sand aboard an international or domestic flight. But, usually, as long as the shell is cleaned properly, you won’t have a problem.
However, just remember that customs agents make the final decision.