Seashells are an important part of coastal ecosystems: they provide materials for birds’ nests, a home or attachment surface for algae, sea grass, sponges and a host of other micro-organisms. Fish use them to hide from predators and hermit crabs use them as temporary shelters.
I have a sense of unease and dismay when I see shells, made into artefacts of one type or another, for sale in souvenir and gift shops, their beauty tarnished and degraded. These products, made for our acquisitive consumer culture, never have the beauty and integrity of the original, naturally formed sculptures.
Removal of shells from beaches damages ecosystems and endanger organisms that rely on shells for their survival.
On the contrary, nestled among other pebbles on the beach, I was delighted to find some with exquisite little drawings that someone had painted on them, evocative of cave paintings – though on a much smaller scale! I found them beautiful and wondered how long it would be until the sea washed all traces away. Perhaps the impermanence was part of their appeal.