Is it legal to bring back seashells (no living shellfish, just the shells) from Ireland (Dublin airport) via airplane to Germany? We found them on the beach. There are eight shells between 2cm and 7cm in size.

In any case, I do not want to look like I am doing illegal business. I read that people were fined with thousands of dollars/euros for trying to bring shells back from e.g. USA. The results of my research were not very insightful. It is talked about

  • protection of species (but what I bring back is certainly already dead and does not contain living matter),
  • giant clams (but I do not know what qualifies as such)
  • "only for personal use" (which is certainly the case)

If it is illegal, where will this told to me? In Ireland or in Germany? Will there be someone on the airport to ask whether this is legal so I can drop them in time? In general, I am not very experienced with how things work on airports.


Here is how the story went, which might only be partially helpful.

First, we went to some information desk at Dublin airport. I showed them the bag of seashells, and it was told to me that there are no objections to me taking these with me to Germany, at least for what Irish law is concerned. However, I was told to check again in Germany.

Now we were in a bit of a hurry and there was not really time to deal with this in Germany again. So we decided to leave the shells in Dublin. I therefore cannot tell anything new about the German side of the problem.


Since both Ireland and Germany are in the same customs union, any customs check is unlikly.

Also this not a matter of endangered species but of shells commonly found on a sea shore, may be considered a natural process.

There are countries or areas which don't like certain natural products being 'stolen' (Sardinia and other vacation islands)

  • sand and seashells being among them.

So the first place is to check Irish Customs

  • I found nothing obvious about seashells there

But asking in Ireland would be wise.

This German site Sand und Muscheln aus Ferien mitnehmen however also advices asking locally and

  • that German Customs only allows 3 pieces of seashells

The original German Customs site, however, uses the phrase giant clams

bis zu drei Exemplare von Riesenmuscheln

so this may not be the same and then only for personal use and not as a gift.


As you are no collector of shells it is very likely you will not recognize protected species, especially as shells can come to the beach far from where they live.
If there is a wildlife ranger or other specialist available to you in Ireland, ask.

If they are a protected species it does not matter you found them already dead, as there is no visible difference between your shells and shells fished, killed and cleaned for collectors.

If in doubt, go through the red channel, something to declare, when you arrive in Germany. It will take a bit more time, you may even only find a phone to connect to a customs officer on some locations, but you will not be charged a fine if you are not allowed to take things through. And officers have some leeway allowing 'honest finds'.

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