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I am on vacation in Mexico, and we have found lots of dead coral washed up on the shore. We would like to take some home as souvenirs, but we are not sure about the legality of doing so, for both of the countries concerned. I believe that the beach is federal property (maybe they all are).

The answers that I've found so far have been differing opinions from various travel forums, many of which were not specific to the countries I'm considering. The only post that was helpful was ten years old and contained a dead link to the reference material. I'm hoping to find something definitive.

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NO. Most likely not and it's not worth the risk.

Customs and Import Restrictions - What You Cannot Bring Back With You states (emphasis added):

Watch out for the following prohibited items (this is an illustrative list):

  • All products made from sea turtles
  • All ivory, both Asian and African elephant
  • Rhinoceros horn and horn products
  • Furs from spotted cats
  • Furs and ivory from marine mammals
  • Feathers and feather products from wild birds
  • Most crocodile and caiman leather
  • Most coral, whether in chunks or in jewelry

Additionally, removing any natural item from a beach is illegal in many places. Without knowing the exact beach, there's no way to be specific, though it is almost certain in any sanctuary or preserves.

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    It might be worth mentioning why coral isn't permitted to be brought back, but most shells are. It's not because of the "do not remove any item from the beach" prohibition (which may apply on some beaches, but doesn't on plenty), but because they want to discourage people defacing coral reefs etc. (which are protected), while taking a few shells is harmless. – Joe Nov 27 '17 at 16:58
  • Thank you. I'll point out that your link currently doesn't work, but I was able to read through it before the State Dept. updated their sitemap. I was also hoping to find similar materials from the Mexican side of things, but I don't doubt what you've said in regard to removing things from beaches. Given that I didn't have the time to procure licenses from either country, I decided to return our coral and shells back to the ocean. We did end up with a nice collection of sea glass. – mathewb Dec 18 '17 at 20:38

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