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 an anonymous tipster called the agency. Officer John Martino reported seeing three containers full of queen conches soaking in bleach and water when he met with Fiscal-Gonzalez.
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.