Can I take souvenirs, pebbles and sea glass, from a French beach?

Fines can be applied if you affect the the integrity of beaches

Pebbles can offer protection against erosion to coastal environments

Reader Question: Are my family when visiting me allowed to take shells and pebbles from the beach as souvenirs?

Although everyone has the right to visit and use beaches in France, they are protected by the Environmental Code, and tampering with certain elements of a beach could be punishable by a fine.

Article L 321-8 of the Environmental Code says “the removal of materials…is limited or prohibited where it is likely to compromise, directly or indirectly, the integrity of beaches, coastal dunes, cliffs, marshes.”

While removing one pebble or shell is unlikely to attract attention, in theory there can be serious consequences especially if you take large quantities.

What does the law say can and cannot be taken?

Sand and shells resting on beaches are forbidden from being moved off of the beach they come from, but sand that has been blown away onto nearby roads and pavements can be collected.

The authorities can tolerate collection when it is done in small quantities, according to French government information website service-public, however removing large amounts could be punished by a fine of up to €1,500.

Likewise, removing pebbles from beaches could also come with a €1,500 fine, because of the protection they provide to coastal environments against erosion and the shelter they give to flora and fauna.

“It’s not so bad if one or two people do it, but if everyone did, it would be a problem,” the head of biodiversity in the Orne Valley told local Norman paper La Renaissance.

Driftwood and polished glass that washes up on beaches is free to be taken away and in the latter case it is even encouraged, as helping clean up the beach.

If you want to take live shellfish off the beach however, there may be local regulations surrounding this and it is preferable to make enquiries at the mairie.

Theoretically the heaviest penalties relate to removing plants from beaches.

Certain wildflowers which only grow by the seaside are protected species and according to French law “damage to the conservation of non-cultivated plant species,” can be punishable by a fine of up to €150,000.

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