Living in France For Members

The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine
Photo by Lou BENOIST / AFP

If you're taking a trip to a French beach, make sure you don't fall foul of these rules on souvenirs.


It's normal to come home from the beach with sand in your shoes, but beach-goers need to be aware that there are laws covering what can be taken home from the beach.

Article L321-8 of the Environmental Code stipulates what can and cannot be taken from the beach, with a fine of up to €1,500 if the rules are broken.

Sand - the taking of sand off the beach is not allowed and only 'windblown sand' - sand that the wind has blown off the beach and to another location - can be collected. In practice if you are just taking a small amount as a holiday keepsake authorities will tolerate it.

But if you're trying to make off with several sacks of sand to create your own urban beach or mix up some mortar you can be prosecuted.


Shingle - The same rules apply to a shingle beach and while a couple of pebbles will be tolerated, taking large amounts could get you the maximum fine of €1,500.

Plants - some types of seaside plants are protected by environmental laws. If you take a protected marine coastal plant you could be fined up to €9,000 for "alteration, degradation or destruction of the environment of a plant species in a protected site".

Driftwood - there is no specific law covered driftwood or sea glass, both of which have become popular items for crafters looking to use recycled goods. However both can be considered part of the "seaside landscape" so their collection must remain reasonable.

A couple of pieces for a souvenir would be fine, but if you're looking to start a business making furniture or ornaments out of driftwood, it would be wise to seek permission from the authorities first.

Seafood - foraging for seafood on the beach is a popular activity and you will regularly see people collecting their lunch from among the oysters, mussels and razor clams found on the beach and in rockpools.

However, in most areas local authorities impose limits on how much you can take - the rules are aimed at keeping foraging to personal use, and stopping commercial foraging, but in most cases there is a limit of a couple of kilos.

Some authorities also impose seasonal limits on foraging, or limits on the size of the creatures you can take - both of these rules are aimed at allowing the natural stocks to replenish themselves over the breeding season.

Looks out of signs on the beach or in sand-dunes giving information on local limits. 

Sign showing the minimum size (in cm) and the maximum amount (in kg) of seafood that can be taken from the beach. Photo: The Local



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also