Over 2.25 million people visit the US Virgin
Islands every year. Visitors come here to
experience the beauty of our natural
resources, the lush mountainous terrain, the
crystal blue waters, and the wonderful
climate. The Virgin Islands as well as the
other Caribbean islands contain some of the
richest terrestrial and marine environments in
the world. The Virgin Islands is home to four
of the world's seven sea turtle species and
holds 14% of the world's coral reef species!
The highlight of your trip may include
walking along stretches of sandy white
beaches and collecting the various treasures
you find but, Virgin Islands law prohibits the
removal of corals, shells or sand from the
marine environment or beaches. The
beautiful shell collection you found on the
beach will be confiscated from you upon
departure from the territory. Corals, shells,
sea fans and sand need to remain where they
are because they play a vital role in the health
of marine ecosystems.
This brochure will discuss the important role
various "treasures" found along the shoreline
play in the dynamic interactions of the
marine environment and why removal of sea
life whether dead or alive can jeopardize the
overall health of the marine system.
Most shells found along the shoreline or in
the water once contained a living animal
called a mollusk. The common names of
mollusks that form the shells found on the
LOCAL DO'S AND DON'T
DO- Learn more about our natural
resources and their value to all of us.
DO- Protect coral reefs and seagrass
and algal beds. Without them, the sand
supply for our beaches would disappear
and eventually, so would our sandy
DO- Report violations to DPNR's
Division of Environmental
Enforcement, St. Croix 340-773-5774
or St. Thomas/ St. John 340-774-3320
DON'T Remove natural resources
from our shorelines. Sand, shells, sea
fans, live rocks, coral pieces and beach
rocks are all natural resources.
beaches are snails and clams. Mollusks make
up one of the largest groups in the animal
kingdom, second only to the insects.
Mollusks are cold-blooded animals with soft
bodies. They are unsegmented and have no
internal skeleton. The animal's shell is
formed from calcium carbonate material
secreted by a fleshy mantle covering the
body. The shell supports the body and
provides shelter, including protection from
predators. A mollusk's shell is never shed
while the animal is alive.
Funding for the production of this brochure
was provided by the Sport Fish Restoration
grant and funds from the Caribbean
Fisheries Management Council.
Department of Planning and
Division of Fish and Wildlife
6291 Estate Nazareth
St. Thomas, VI 00802
45 Mars Hill
Frederiksted, VI 00840
Some organisms such as sea anemones
take up residence on the surface of
Studies have been done on a number of
species to determine the size and age at
reproduction. This is the size that these
species can be harvested without
endangering the population.
Virgin Islands law prohibits the collection
of shells, corals, sea fans, etc. without
proper collecting permits. Imagine the
millions of visitors to the territory each
year taking a "token" back home. The
collective effect would be disastrous to the
environment. Contact the Division of Fish
and Wildlife for information on species
that may be harvested.
As the animal grows, new shell material
is added to the edge of the aperture
(opening) of the shell. Like the growth
rings in a tree's trunk, the shell material
records the life history of the animal that
Even after the animal that once created
the shell has died, the shell plays an
important role in the marine ecosystem.
Unoccupied shells become homes for an
assortment of other marine organisms,
such as soldier and hermit crabs.
species mat may oe recreationally
Conch shells that are 9 1/2 inches long,
or have a lip thickness of 3/8 inch.
Whelk shells 2-7/16 inches in diameter, or
Spiny lobster skeletons that have a 3-1/2
inch carapace length.
If you enter the United States or Puerto
Rico with any natural resources from the
USVI, except those listed above or unless
you have a permit from the Department
of Planning and Natural Resources, you
are in violation of Federal laws
concerning the illegal import of natural
There are other restrictions on taking
the spiny lobster. A female laden with
eggs is called a "berried-female" and
in this stage a female lobster cannot
be legally harvested even if she is of a
legal harvest size. By allowing the
lobster to lay her eggs you are
helping to increase the population.
Dead coral is also an extremely
important part of coral reef
ecosystems. While alive they provide
habitat and food for hundreds of
marine organisms. Once dead, they
continue to provide habitat and are
also instrumental in making sand.
All natural materials that wash up on
the beach are subject to wave action.
The constant movement and grinding
action wears down the hard parts of
shells, corals and bones. These worn
parts make up the sand on the beach.
Please help us maintain our sandy
beaches by not removing the material
that nature uses to make the sand.
You may enter the United States or
Puerto Rico with natural resources,
from the USVI, only if you have an
export permit from the VI Department
of Planning and Natural Resources.
Otherwise you are in violation of
Federal laws concerning importation of
Make sure your trip is an enjoyable one
and take as many pictures as you want.
However, please leave our natural
resources where they belong, here in
For more information on this and other natural
resource topics please visit our web site at