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California woman fined $88,000 after children harvested clams in Pismo Beach

PISMO BEACH, California. Late last year, Charlotte Russ and her family took a trip to Pismo Beach, on California’s central coast.

“My kids thought they were collecting seashells, but they were actually collecting clams, 72 to be exact,” Russ said.

Their children harvested rows of clams, but they learned a costly lesson: Clam harvesting has regulations.

“Right before we left, that’s when I opened it up and saw the amount,” Russ said.

He received an on-the-spot fine and later received a notice that he would have to pay just over $88,000.

“It made me very sad and depressed, and it kind of ruined our trip,” Russ said.

Lt. Matthew Gil with the Department of Fish and Wildlife says there are rules in place to protect shellfish species.

“The reason we have these regulations is because we have to let them get to 4 and a half inches so they can spawn and have offspring every year, and they have juvenile clams,” Gil said.

Gil said it’s important to educate yourself and your children before you disembark.

“If you have a dead sand dollar, a dead animal or something, or you have a broken shell, that’s fine,” Gil said. “Pismo clams: What you will see is that both shells will be intact together.”

If you can’t separate them easily, it’s a clam. A difference Russ’ children now know.

“Now they know on the beach that they don’t touch anything, but now they know what a clam is, compared to what a shell is now. I had to explain it to them,” Russ said.

Fortunately, after explaining the clam mix-up to a San Luis Obispo County judge, his fine was reduced to $500.

Now you can laugh about it.

“I got this after ‘winning’ my case, in Pismo,” Russ said.

This shellfish tattoo is to remind you of the situation and how good your children are at clamming.

But all jokes and clam laughs aside, she wants others to realize it, so they don’t have the same seafood struggles she does.

“It was definitely an expensive trip to Pismo, unforgettable,” Russ said.

Last year, 58 citations were issued for this problem in San Luis Obispo.

Russ says there are signs posted, but says he wishes there were more because it’s just not something his family, who was very eager to have fun, paid attention to.

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