Family Trip to Pismo Beach Turned into $88,000 Citation for Collecting Clams

72 clams illegally collected from Pismo Beach (courtesy photo)

A Fresno woman found herself facing a stunning fine of $88,000 after her children collected clams during a family trip to Pismo Beach.

After providing an explanation to a San Luis Obispo County judge, the fine was reduced to $500.

Charlotte Russ and her family embarked on a trip to Pismo Beach at the end of last year, hoping to enjoy the coastal scenery and engage in some seaside activities. However, what started as innocent beachcombing for seashells turned into an expensive lesson.

Unbeknownst to them, the seemingly harmless activity of collecting what they believed to be seashells turned out to be a violation of clamming regulations.

Russ’s enthusiastic children had unintentionally gathered 72 clams. It was only when Russ received a ticket on the spot that she realized the severity of the situation. Later she received a notice demanding payment of over $88,000, according to ABC30 News.

Charlotte Russ and her children on a beach (Image: ABC News)

Lieutenant Matthew Gil from the Department of Fish and Wildlife shed light on the regulations, explaining that they were implemented to protect the species of shellfish. The rules stipulate that clams must be allowed to grow to a size of four-and-a-half inches before they spawn and reproduce. By adhering to these regulations, the species can thrive and sustain its population, reports ABC30 News. 

Emphasizing the importance of education and awareness, Lt. Gil urged individuals and families to familiarize themselves with the applicable regulations before engaging in beach-related activities and clarified that it is permissible to collect dead sand dollars or broken seashells, but intact Pismo clams should be left untouched.

To commemorate the event and serve as a reminder, Russ opted to get a tattoo of a shellfish. Despite the challenges and unexpected expenses, she hopes to turn her experience into an opportunity to raise awareness among others, preventing them from encountering similar struggles while enjoying the coastline, reports ABC30 News.

Russ highlighted the need for increased signage along the beach, acknowledging that her family’s excitement overshadowed their attention to existing warnings.

San Luis Obispo County reported 58 citations related to similar instances last year.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. Obviously, Charlotte needs to familiarize herself with the concept of fishing and harvesting in our state, or anywhere else for that matter. “Unintentionally gathered 72 clams”??? Live clams dug out of the sand? Wow. C’mon man…that’s an absurd statement in itself, Edhat Staff. Seashell hunting is free – but they had to dig all these live, undersized clams up out of the intertidal zone.

  2. How can you not know that there are rules? Why would they “collect” 72 “shells”? Live clams are in the sand and have to be dug out. They are not laying around for the picking. These folks just didn’t care or didn’t think anyone would hold them accountable. The reduction of the fine was appropriate in this case. IN MANY OTHER similar cases the thieves were stealing the protected species for profit to be sold to restaurants or private customers. That absolutely deserves enforcement and heavy fines.

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