The little collection above is what people were trying to sell us on the beach in Punta Cana. We certainly weren’t interested because (frankly) there’s something rather macabre and non-eco-friendly about carrying around a dead/stuffed fish/creature. However, after a bit of reading I began to wonder: what are the laws are regarding seaside collectibles? If you’ve ever done a search or two on shell collecting, you’ll know that this is a hot little topic on more than one community board.
There’s a lot of myth and misconception surrounding what you can and cannot bring into Canada as seaside collectibles. When in doubt you can always check with the following agencies: the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Removing seaside collectible from a country is really up to the laws of that country and many are cracking down. The information I have below is for leaving the Dominican Republic and arriving in Canada.
Conch Shells: According to CFIA this includes “Coral and similar materials, unworked or simply prepared but not otherwise worked; shells of molluscs, crustaceans or echinoderms and cuttle-bone, unworked or simply prepared but not cut to shape, powder and waste thereof. No CFIA Requirements. May be subject to requirements of Other Government Departments.”
One of those other government departments includes Environment Canada who works with CITES. According to them, the Queen Conch is a restricted item: “Specimens to be imported into Canada must be accompanied by a CITES export permit issued by the exporting country.”
Stuffed/Taxidermy Shark: (TROPHIES AND OTHER PREPARED ANIMAL PIECES ) According to CFIA: “The following items may be released following visual inspection by a CFIA inspector. They must be free from all feces, blood, dirt and ectoparasites to qualify for exemption from further restrictions. Items that are found to be soiled as above are to be refused entry and either destroyed or returned to the country of origin. Alternatively, they may be directed to an approved premises for disinfection.” In the CITES world: whale shark, great white shark, and basking shark are all controlled species.
Starfish: I couldn’t find much about control surrounding Starfish. However, from living in an ocean province I know that Starfish stink and it’s probably best to just leave them.
It should also be noted that cruise lines have their own rules governing what you can and can’t bring aboard their ships. This in itself is a rather hot topic and if in doubt it’s probably best to check before buying that taxidermy shark or perfectly polished shell.