Woman thrown in jail for popular beach activity

Collecting shells from the beach is a favourite pastime for many beachgoers but one woman who did just that is to spend a little over two weeks in jail.

Diana Fiscal-Gonzalez had picked up 40 queen conchs from the area around Key West, in Florida, and had planned to give them away as presents after cleaning them, the Miami Herald reports. 

But the 30-year-old from Texas allegedly did not know the mollusks were protected in that state, reportedly telling the judge she was not aware it was illegal to remove them.

She pleaded no contest to taking them on July 13.

Children also reportedly helped her take the conchs from the sea.

Caribbean Queen Conch on the beach at Anclitas Island. Source: Getty, File

The US Fish & Wildlife Service says the queen conch, refers to both the large, marine mollusk and its shell alone, describing them as “soft-bodied animals, belonging to the same taxonomic group (Mollusca) as clams, oysters, octopi, and squid. “

The Service says they were found in the Florida Keys in high numbers at one time.

“But, due to a collapse in conch fisheries in the 1970s, it is now illegal to commercially or recreationally harvest queen conch in that state. 

The mollusks are state-protected, so it is illegal to commercially or recreationally harvest queen conch in Florida. Source: Tami Heilemann/US Fish & Wildlife Service

An anonymous tipster called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and when FWC Officer John Martino arrived at a home he saw a woman in the driveway with hose and three plastic containers, which were carrying the conchs, the Miami Herald reports. 

The officer reportedly took pictures of the mollusks and was able to return them to the water.

Fortunately the majority were still alive.

Ms Fiscal-Gonzalez also reportedly has to pay a fine and court costs totalling A$1048 and will serve six months probation, but she will not have a criminal conviction on her record.

The 30-year-old’s jail sentence is due to begin on August 10.