Mom smacked with $89k fine after kids collect clams thinking they were seashells

Dylan Horetski

A mother of five kids in California was hit with a fine of $88,993 after her kids accidentally picked up 72 clams, thinking they were seashells.

At the end of 2023, mother of five Charlotte Russ and her family took a trip to Pismo Beach in California. She and the kids began collecting what they thought were seashells, but quickly learned otherwise after a wildlife officer approached them.

“My kids they thought they were collecting seashells, but they were actually collecting clams… 72 to be exact,” Russ said. Collecting clams off the beach has regulations, and the officer gave her a ticket on the spot.

Charlotte told ABC 7 that the incident “kind of ruined” the trip — but things got worse after receiving a notice that she was being asked to pay over $88,000.

The mom explained: “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.”

picture of clams

Charlotte went to court for the high-dollar ticket and explained the mixup to the San Luis Obispo County Judge. After doing so, she was able to get the fine lowered to just $500.

“It was definitely one expensive trip to Pismo, unforgettable,” she said.

Despite the confusion making their trip to the beach stressful, the mom made it clear she could laugh about it now as she told the news publication that she received a tattoo of a shellfish.

Lt. Matthew Gil of the Department of Fish and Wildlife revealed in a statement why the state has regulations on clam-collecting.

“The reason we have these regulations is because we have to let them get to four-and-a-half inches so they can spawn, so they can have offspring every year, and they have juvenile clams,” he said.

This isn’t the first time someone’s gone viral after being surprised with a high-dollar fine. In early May 2024, a TikToker received an email from the local library stating that she had almost $12,000 in late fees for books she was “hoarding” at home.