A Texas tourist who collected 40 queen conchs seashells from Key West, Florida, is going to jail for 15 days.
A Florida judge also sentenced Diana Fiscal-Gonzalez of Dallas to serve six months of probation and pay a $500 fine, plus $268 for court costs, for taking 40 queen conchs from the waters that surround Key West, the Miami Herald reports.
Fiscal-Gonzalez, who pleaded guilty, said she didn’t know taking the shells from the beach was illegal. She was planning to give the state-protected mollusks away as gifts.
Recreational collection of empty seashells is allowed in Florida, but the conch shells Fiscal-Gonzalez collected contained organisms inside. Taking a living queen conch is illegal. Also, killing, mutilating or removing a living queen conch from a shell is prohibited, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission notes.
Fiscal-Gonzalez was arrested by an officer from the commission on July 13, 2017, after a tipster called the agency, the Herald reports.
Conch shells are an important part of Florida Keys culture. Native-born islanders are called Conchs, and the Keys are nicknamed the Conch Republic. Empty conch shells, which produce a unique sound when blown, have also been used as signaling devices in the Florida Keys for centuries.
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