"As long as the individual obtains a saltwater fishing license, they may gather up to 100 pounds of sand per person each day." Those with a license, according to Rudell, may take the sand dollars home and put them in a tank or collect them. There are no restrictions on the number of licenses that may be purchased by one person or group.
In addition to the daily limit, there is a season for sand dollar gathering. That season is from mid-March through early November. During this time, it is illegal to remove any sand dollars from their habitat in California. Violators will be subject to fines between $250 and $10,000.
The collection and possession of sand dollars is regulated by state law. Check with your local fish dealer or visit www.dfg.ca.gov for more information.
They are worth whatever you can convince someone to pay for them, just like anything else. Someone with a saltwater aquarium could be willing to spend $5 to $15 for a living one. Let's take a look at the most sand dollars that anyone has ever put on them. In 2017, a stolen sand dollar collection was reported in Florida. The lot contained hundreds of specimens from various locations across the state.
The lot was made up primarily of Atlantic surfperch sand dollars (Haustator australis), but it also included some Mediterranean sea cucumbers (Holothuria glaber) and red-striped rockfish (Sebastes marinus). All were valued at $500 to $1,000 each.
In 2018, a collector in California sold eight species of rare sand dollars for a total of $40,400. The biggest seller by far was the Pacific coast glass sponge (Spongilla lobata), which brought $10,624.
On average, these animals are worth about $100 each. That's not very much money when you consider there are still more than 100 million sand dollars left in their range of occurrence.
The vast majority of them are going unrecorded because they're buried under layers of sediment or washed away when waves break over the shore. Only a few get dug up by beachcombers looking for treasure.
According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, live sand dollars have microscopic spines that assist them travel across the sea floor and capture and deliver food to their central mouths. Bringing a live sand dollar home from a South Carolina beach is against the law. You might face a $500 fine on Hilton Head Island. The penalty increases if you are caught doing this again.
In addition to being illegal to take, the sand dollars are also protected by law. Anyone who takes a live marine animal must release it in a safe location. If an animal isn't released within 24 hours, someone else can file a complaint with local police or fish and wildlife officials. They may be able to retrieve the animal from local authorities.
The best way to avoid bringing home a live sand dollar or any other marine animal is to leave them in their natural habitat. That means no collecting them off the beach!
For more information about marine animals and their laws, visit our page under Animal Rights Issues.
Always be mindful of the quantity of shells you collect, and help to protect the sand dollar species by leaving living organisms in the water or tossing them back if they have washed up on shore by accident. Sand dollars washed ashore on the beach that are yellowish or light in color are most likely dead. These are the ones you'd like to amass. It is illegal to remove sand dollars from state beaches in some cases, so if you find many of these creatures on one spot, do not pick them because you could be violating law.
There are several ways to protect sand dollars. If you are in the desert check for hot spots where the temperature is high but not enough to burn skin, this might be a good place to leave some containers of water. The heat will cause insects that live in those containers to move away from what would be a harsh environment for them into more comfortable temperatures. This can also be done with rocks, but they need to be placed in areas where there is already a lot of debris because they wouldn't have anywhere else to hide.
In addition to protecting sand dollars at home, you should also try to keep your swimming pool clean. This will help ensure that they have a place to live when you aren't looking out for them. Finally, don't remove all the sea grass from around your yard either. This helps provide shelter for small fish and other organisms that would otherwise be vulnerable while their food sources are depleted.
Sand dollars will almost certainly ride a low tide all the way to shore. High tides generate turbulent waters that are difficult to locate. However, if you know where to look, you can find very well-preserved sand dollars near and far away from human influence.
Because they live in such shallow water, most people don't realize how important it is for sand dollars to be preserved when they wash up on shore. The first thing that happens to them is they dry out because they're not covered by seawater like other creatures are. Then birds eat them. Finally, they get buried by sediments. It's these final steps that make them look as if they're still alive today. Unfortunately, without protection they wouldn't last long after they're washed up on shore.
Most people think of shells as permanent features of the landscape and not worth preserving. But because sand dollars are made of the same material as shells, this also makes them valuable for archaeologists who study past environments. By comparing specimens found onshore with those collected from offshore, we can learn much about what types of habitats used to exist in areas now covered by water. Sand dollars are also useful for learning about current conditions in coastal ecosystems.