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Thread: Sustainable seashells?

  1. #1
    Member Euro Pod Dogfish's Avatar
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    Sustainable seashells?

    I was wondering how other mers ensure their shells and shell made products are environmentally friendly?

    After working with some charities, I was advised never to buy seashells or goods made of seashells in stores (particularly in beach resorts) as many are trawled from the seabed, resulting in the death of seahorses/corals and so forth. It upset me so greatly that I have only ever bought or made synthetic seashell bras/headdresses etc. My recent open-sea mermaiding in Croatia revealed the extent of the ruined seabed in so many areas to me.

    Is this something others do as well? I'm assuming the mercommunity is aware of this, as we all hope to improve the condition of our oceans. What ways can I ensure I am not contributing to destruction of sealife?

  2. #2
    Senior Member North Pacific Pod Mermaid Kane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogfish View Post
    I was wondering how other mers ensure their shells and shell made products are environmentally friendly?

    After working with some charities, I was advised never to buy seashells or goods made of seashells in stores (particularly in beach resorts) as many are trawled from the seabed, resulting in the death of seahorses/corals and so forth. It upset me so greatly that I have only ever bought or made synthetic seashell bras/headdresses etc. My recent open-sea mermaiding in Croatia revealed the extent of the ruined seabed in so many areas to me.

    Is this something others do as well? I'm assuming the mercommunity is aware of this, as we all hope to improve the condition of our oceans. What ways can I ensure I am not contributing to destruction of sealife?
    I bought my shells from a tiny beach shop who sold quality shells.
    I'm not sure how she got them all, but many of the shells she collected and fixed up herself, selling bigger ones for an upward of 100$.

    I got mine for a fair price (a couple hundred for a few dollars), because they were COVERED in barnacles, seascale, and worm tubes.

    --->Before and after photos<---

    The process included brushing them with a toothbrush, then scraping off the bad stuff with a dental pick, and rubbing coconut oil into them. They need that oil for that great sheen. It also hasn't come off in the water.



  3. #3
    Member Undisclosed Pod
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    I know this post is a couple months old but I really wanted to weigh in. The truth is there is no way to use seashells and have it be sustainable. Firstly, your information is correct-virtually all the commercially available shells have been trawled which devastates the ecosystem and the animals are still alive when collected then they are deliberately killed so they can be sold as decorations. Furthermore, collecting seashells off the beach is also extremely harmful to the ecosystem. So, even purchasing foraged empty shells or collecting them yourself off the beach still have hugely negative environmental impacts (though not as abruptly as trawling). Many studies have shown that collecting seashells off the beach devastates the natural ecosystem.
    I am so happy, Dogfish, that you have chosen not to use real shells in your mermaid accessories! I feel like it is a huge problem in the mermaid hobby because so many mers don't realise the extent of the impact that shell harvesting causes. We all love the ocean and as mermaids it's our responsibility to be educated on this matter and protect the ocean and shore ecosystems which we as a community are failing at. I too am guilty of previously collecting shells off the beach. I truly didn't know that this would also cause a negative consequences to the ecosystem and I loved going to the beach as a little girl and collecting shells!
    but I make my own accessories or make sure to buy ones without real shells! the wonderful thing is so many top makers use silicone so that is a wonderful alternative! For smaller shells I have silicone moulds I use modelling clay and bake and paint them! They are perfect for crowns and tops and other accessories as well!
    Here is a link to a long-term scientific study over 30 years on the impact of tourists collecting shells off the beach
    The full study for those with a scientific background: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/art...l.pone.0083615
    An article explaining the study in simpler terms: https://www.theguardian.com/environm...em-marine-life

    If anyone has any questions please do feel free to reach out to me. I studied marine biology and my focus was invertebrates. i'm happy to answer questions or help explain details of the study I linked. You can also find other studies on this topic as well or ask me and I can provide more.

    But for anyone reading this just please stop using real shells- no matter where they come from it's harmful to the environment *heart*


  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Mermaid Tuwala View Post
    I know this post is a couple months old but I really wanted to weigh in. The truth is there is no way to use seashells and have it be sustainable. Firstly, your information is correct-virtually all the commercially available shells have been trawled which devastates the ecosystem and the animals are still alive when collected then they are deliberately killed so they can be sold as decorations. Furthermore, collecting seashells off the beach is also extremely harmful to the ecosystem. So, even purchasing foraged empty shells or collecting them yourself off the beach still have hugely negative environmental impacts (though not as abruptly as trawling). Many studies have shown that collecting seashells off the beach devastates the natural ecosystem.
    I am so happy, Dogfish, that you have chosen not to use real shells in your mermaid accessories! I feel like it is a huge problem in the mermaid hobby because so many mers don't realise the extent of the impact that shell harvesting causes. We all love the ocean and as mermaids it's our responsibility to be educated on this matter and protect the ocean and shore ecosystems which we as a community are failing at. I too am guilty of previously collecting shells off the beach. I truly didn't know that this would also cause a negative consequences to the ecosystem and I loved going to the beach as a little girl and collecting shells!
    but I make my own accessories or make sure to buy ones without real shells! the wonderful thing is so many top makers use silicone so that is a wonderful alternative! For smaller shells I have silicone moulds I use modelling clay and bake and paint them! They are perfect for crowns and tops and other accessories as well!
    Here is a link to a long-term scientific study over 30 years on the impact of tourists collecting shells off the beach
    The full study for those with a scientific background: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/art...l.pone.0083615
    An article explaining the study in simpler terms: https://www.theguardian.com/environm...em-marine-life

    If anyone has any questions please do feel free to reach out to me. I studied marine biology and my focus was invertebrates. i'm happy to answer questions or help explain details of the study I linked. You can also find other studies on this topic as well or ask me and I can provide more.

    But for anyone reading this just please stop using real shells- no matter where they come from it's harmful to the environment *heart*
    OMG! I never knew damage could be done to the environment by collecting broken seashells or other empty shells from the beach D: I'm never picking up another seashell again! Thanks so much for posting this, I would love to learn more how animals rely on broken shells. It's such a shame though, I would love to share this information whenever I go to the beach but I wonder who would care? At least now I know. But I have so many shells that I've collected over many years going to the beaches that I've grown up on.

  5. #5
    I recently purchased some shells from the thrift store. Can they be returned to the ocean after being used for decor?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Mermaid Jaffa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MerPizza View Post
    I recently purchased some shells from the thrift store. Can they be returned to the ocean after being used for decor?
    That would depend on whether the shells have been coated with a protective glaze or resin.

    If they are in a natural state, then yes.

    If no, its best to keep for yourself as the coating may cause damage to the sea creature.
    Formerly known as ireneho

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Mermaid Jaffa View Post
    That would depend on whether the shells have been coated with a protective glaze or resin.

    If they are in a natural state, then yes.

    If no, its best to keep for yourself as the coating may cause damage to the sea creature.
    I also believe it that way. It should be the natural shells.

  8. #8
    Senior Member North Pacific Pod Arking's Avatar
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    I 3D printed a scallop for a necklace recently. Turned out good, it was from Scan the world a 3d scanning group that has quite a collection of marine 3d prints to choose from. Eventually if they had a design like a conch with dissolvable supports it might be a viable solution if you're looking for function (sound) vs aesthetic. While it is plastic I chose to use recycled biodegradable grades made from corn that will, if constantly exposed to water and sunlight combined, crumble to dust within a two year span. I've been iffy on this so I kept my mouth shut on whether its truly an eco friendly alternative.

    Now with regards to anyone else I'd say simply buying the shell you want then casting a silicone mold or a one side plaster press mold of it could solve your problems. Using materials like kiln fired clay or porcelain you could achieve a nice gloss look thats similar to real shells to get by and produce environmentally friendly works. Theres several artisans and small shops that do this and I totally recommend supporting them.

    If you're not handy with mold making or have no money to spare try using polymer clay materials at home to craft your shells though there are concerns being raised about pthalates in those materials.

  9. #9
    YES!!! I was thinking about this prior to reading your post Arking. I should definitely make molds for the shells I have so I don't need to worry about this anymore. Love your idea of printing a conch for sound!!

  10. #10


    For some reason, I retain information better when it is presented in meme form, so here.


    Sent from my iPhone using MerNetwork mobile app

  11. #11
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod
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    Yeah I feel bad because I have one real Nautilus shell but the rest are resin.

    Sent from my [device_name] using MerNetwork mobile app

  12. #12
    Member Undisclosed Pod
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    Quote Originally Posted by MerPizza View Post
    I recently purchased some shells from the thrift store. Can they be returned to the ocean after being used for decor?
    no, I would NOT recommend returning any second hand shells to the ocean. Unless you are 100% which beach they were taken from. It's always best not to remove things from one ecosystem and into another. I see how it would seem to be a good idea and in some, probably most, cases it would cause no harm but with no research on this its too much of a risk. If you have personally collected shells off a beach and want to return them to the same beach then go ahead! If they are painted or otherwise treated, or if you don't know where they came from, please keep them.


  13. #13
    Senior Member Chesapeake Pod swordwhale's Avatar
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    I work in a craft store and we sell bags of seashells from, generally, the far side of the world. I wondered about how they are collected, and if it is sustainable. I guessed it might not be...

    this... https://www.nationalgeographic.com/a...e-handicrafts/

    I have always collected stuff from the places I go, empty shells, driftwood, etc... now... hmmmm...

    I think trawling for arts and crafts, grooming commercial beaches like Ocean City MD, building too close to the sea and general human activity is more devastating. I fervently do NOT support places like Ocean City, going instead to wild beaches, most of which are parks and do have rules for what and how much you can collect. They also often have one small beach that most of the public goes to, and another 40 miles of wilderness. More wild places like Assateague Island and the Virginia Barriers would help.

    As for the craft store, shells... hmmmmmm ... we do sell some really cool "fakes" especially the starfish and a few "fossils" and a nautilus fake. They look great, and are probably easier and cheaper to create than dredging up real shells... and they will save the real ones for the sea.

    I think this is something we should be spreading the word about.

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