Shells, sand, pebbles, driftwood... You can't pick everything up on the beaches

Publié le null - Legal and Administrative Information Directorate (Prime Minister)

Do you intend to bring back pebbles from your holiday to redo your bathroom or decorate your garden, or driftwood to decorate your interior? Beware, there are regulations in place to protect the fragile coastal ecosystem, with fines for damage to the public domain that can be very high.

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Image 1Crédits: © mahey - AdobeStock

The use of beaches is free and free according to the Environmental Code. However, picking up sand, pebbles or shells as holiday souvenirs is a practice that weakens the coasts and is regulated by law with fines for offenders.

Article L.321-8 of the Environmental Code states that

the extraction of materials [...] shall be limited or prohibited where it is likely to compromise, directly or indirectly, the integrity of beaches, coastal dunes, cliffs, marshes, [...]


The sand and the shells

It is forbidden to collect sand on the beach. The Environmental Code considers its removal as an infringement on the public maritime domain, weakening the coastlines. However, it is possible to collect

wind sand

 : the one that has been moved out of the beach by the wind on the pavement or sidewalks.

The authorities can tolerate collection when it is done in small quantities. An unreasonable levy, sometimes for commercial purposes, is punishable by a fine of up to €1,500.

For empty shells, the restriction is the same as for sand.

The pebbles

On a beach, the pebbles protect the fauna and flora from swell and erosion.

Stacked pebble piles are fashionable but not without danger to the coastal ecosystem.

Gleaning pebbles can cost a fine of €1,500.


The marine coastlines have a specific flora that grows only on the seashore and that is classified as protected. Cutting these plants may be worth €150,000 of fine for

damage to the conservation of non-cultivated plant species



There are no official regulations for collecting water-polished wood brought back to the beaches by waves and tides.

The frosted glass

Sampling is permitted as it contributes to the cleanliness of the beach.


Do you like to pick up live shells and then enjoy them? Whether for environmental or health reasons, ask the city hall because the regulations may vary according to the departments.




is what is left by the sea as the waves move, as the tides ebb and flow. It forms a strip where living or living elements are accumulated (cuttlebone, algae, sponges, dead wood) and debris from human activities (plastic bags, pieces of fishing nets, oil pellets).

When the


it is not too polluted, it constitutes a real ecosystem that participates in the life of the coast, housing many microorganisms that live in the sand, feeding plants that will help to retain the sand, as well as insects, birds, crustaceans.