Permits are issued after you have the shells in hand, and after they have been examined by the Marine Resources Department in Koror. So, step one is to collect the shells you want to take home.
If you want to collect shells, it is a good idea to swing by Marine Resources at the beginning of your trip to get the latest information on what is and is not allowed, and to obtain a pamphlet on Palau’s current regulations. Unfortunately, the shells you’ll probably most want are those from the various species of giant clam that live in Palau, and wild giant clam shells are currently illegal to take home, with or without a permit.
Towards the end of your trip, take your shells to the Marine Resources Department. It is located in a two-story building, just past Ice Box Park on Malakal Island. One of the folks there will examine the shells, determine the species of each, wrap and seal those that can be taken, and complete the required forms. There is a surprising amount of paper and computer work involved; and when the permit is complete, you will be charged US $10. If you have a shell that cannot be taken from Palau, you will be told to give it to someone on the islands or toss it back into the ocean. If you like, the folks at Marine Resources will toss it back into the ocean for you.
That’s the process for legally collecting shells from Palau. Now pack the shells in your bags, and carry your permit to the airport.
But what about those giant clam shells you loved so much? You cannot take wild giant clam shells from the beaches and oceans of Palau, but you can take cultured giant clam shells grown in a farm. These can be purchased at Marine Resources. They require a special permit of their own, which costs US $5 to obtain. We took one of these cultured shells home. It is big, beautiful, and heavy.
A word on the folks at Marine Resources: They are exceptionally friendly and helpful. We had some wild giant clam shells that we could not keep, and they seemed to feel worse about it than we did.