florida tourist arrested
Conch shells of the genus Strombus on the beach of Cabo Rojo, Jaragua National Park (Unesco World Heritage Site, 2002), Dominican Republic.

Florida Tourist Arrested And Sentenced To Jail For Collecting Seashells

Photo: DEA / V. GIANNELLA (Getty)

In case you haven’t noticed, Florida is facing a terrible trend of bizarre news: naked man climbing into a police cardrunk opossums and Zombie alerts immediately come to mind. If there’s a crazy headline, there’s a chance it came out of the Sunshine State. Today’s weird news surrounds a Florida tourist arrested for collecting seashells. However, once you realize the details behind the arrest it actually makes sense.

A Dallas woman named Diana Fiscal-Gonzalez was sentenced to 15 days in jail, six months of probation, a $500 fine, and $268 for court costs. All this for taking 40 queen conch shells from waters in the Key West area.

The problem? All 40 queen conchs — living mollusks — were still inside the shells. Harming them, in any way, is against the law.

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.

In case you’ve only seen people blow conch shells in the movies, here’s a video of the living mollusk in action.

Also, here’s a giant conch ingesting a sea snail, in case soft-bodied, marine mollusks tickle your fancy.

It’s easy to see why Fiscal-Gonzalez was arrested. These animals have weight and aren’t afraid to defend themselves. No one is that naive. The fact that this tourist had bleach in her holding containers also proves she knew she wasn’t just collecting empty shells, but killing living beings in the process.

Fiscal-Gonzalez plead guilty to the crime. She planned to give away the shells as gifts. At least she owned it.

From now on, the only gifts you should ever be giving from the water should be shrimp, bass, trout, catfish, salmon or any other commercially acceptable sea food meant for human consumption. And beer batter. Lots of beer batter. Beer batter is delicious.

Josh Helmuth is a sports reporter in St. Louis who contributes to Mandatory.