Mom fined $88,000 after her children collected 72 clams — not seashells — at a California beach

Man holds Pismo clams in California in 2000.
Pismo clams.Spencer Weiner/Getty Images
  • A mother was fined $88,000 after her family collected 72 clams from a California beach.

  • People cannot collect clams without a fishing license in California.

  • A San Luis Obispo County judge later reduced the fine to $500.

A California mother received a $88,000 fine after her children collected dozens of clams they believed were seashells.

Charlotte Russ told news station ABC30 that her family vacationed at Pismo Beach, a coastal city known for its beaches and local sea life, in late 2023. The residents dubbed Pismo Beach the "Clam Capital of the World" in 1947, according to the Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau.

"My kids, they thought they were collecting seashells, but they were actually collecting clams, 72 to be exact," she told the outlet.

Unfortunately, that mistake cost them.

pismo beach california
Pismo Beach, California. Getty Images/Harri Jarvelainen Photography

Pismo Beach has strict regulations regarding clam harvesting. People must have a valid saltwater fishing license and cannot collect clams under 4 1/2 inches. There are also regulations around what time people can harvest clams and how many they can bag a day.

Authorities issued Russ citations for fishing without a license and for collecting undersized clams, according to court records.

Russ told ABC 30 that the fine totaled $88,993.

"It made me really sad and depressed, and it kind of ruined our trip," she said.

However, Russ said she was able to explain the mistake to a San Luis Obispo County judge and got the fine reduced to $500. The fine can also be fulfilled by completing community service work.

"It was definitely one expensive trip to Pismo," Russ told the outlet. "Unforgettable."

California's Department of Fish and Wildlife representatives did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

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