California mother is stunned by whopping $89K fine after her son collected what he thought were seashells from popular beach


A mother has been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars after her children were caught collecting dozens of clams.

Charlotte Russ of Fresno took her five children on a family vacation to Pismo Beach, California, at the end of last year. Her curious children started collecting seashells – or so they thought.

‘My kids they thought they were collecting seashells, but they were actually collecting clams, 72 to be exact,’ Fresno resident Charlotte Russ told ABC 7.

As it turns out, clamming is highly regulated in California. If you don’t have a fishing license or the clams are small, catching clams is off limits.

She received a citation right there on the beach and was later notified she has to pay close to $89,000 for her kids’ seemingly innocent treasure hunt.

Charlotte Russ of Fresno took her five children on a family vacation to Pismo Beach, California, at the end of last year
Charlotte Russ of Fresno took her five children on a family vacation to Pismo Beach, California, at the end of last year
 Her curious children started collecting seashells - or so they thought. They actually collected 72 clams - a highly illegal practice in California if you don't have a license
Her curious children started collecting seashells – or so they thought. They actually collected 72 clams – a highly illegal practice in California if you don’t have a license

‘It made me really sad and depressed, and it kind of ruined our trip,’ said Russ.

But the rules are in place for a reason, Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Lieutenant Matthew Gil told the outlet

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

Gil stressed the importance of becoming familiar with wildlife regulations and how to identify the different animals.

He said you can tell a clam apart from other mollusks based on how hard it is to pull apart their shell.

‘If you have a dead sand dollar, a dead animal, or something like that, or you have a broken seashell, that’s fine,’ said Lt. Gil.

‘Pismo clams — what you’re gonna see is both shells will be intact together.’

Russ said her kids have learned their lesson.

‘They know now at the beach don’t touch anything, but they know now what a clam is, compared to what a seashell is now, I’ve had to explain that to them,’ said Russ.

The mother was able to plead her case with a San Luis Obispo County Judge, who reduced her fine to $500 dollars.

After she ‘won’ her case, Russ got a shellfish tattoo to commemorate the incident.

She received a citation right there on the beach and was later notified she has to pay close to $89,000 for her kids' seemingly innocent treasure hunt
She received a citation right there on the beach and was later notified she has to pay close to $89,000 for her kids’ seemingly innocent treasure hunt
The mother was able to plead her case with a San Luis Obispo County Judge, who reduced her fine to $500 dollars
The mother was able to plead her case with a San Luis Obispo County Judge, who reduced her fine to $500 dollars

‘It was definitely one expensive trip to Pismo, unforgettable,’ said Russ.

Russ’s citation was not an isolated incident; last year, 58 tickets were issued for illegal clamming in San Luis Obispo.

While there were signs posted around the beach that warned beach-goers of consequences of clamming, Russ said she wishes she had taken the time to read them.

This article by Alexa Cimino was first published by The Daily Mail on 23 May 2024. Lead Image: Pismo Clam bust in Oceano (Courtesy: California State Parks).

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