Dozens of tourists are facing steep fines for taking sand, pebbles and shells from beaches of the island of Sardinia in Italy. Sardinia is famous in the world for its pure and exotic sandy beaches which feed a flourishing black market for souvenirs on the internet.
Officers in Italy have fined more than 41 tourists with up €3,000 (£2,580) for illegally trying to leave the island with these items. Due to the spate of incidents of removal of these precious stones, in 2017, it was made illegal to remove sand from the beaches and to trade in sand, pebbles and shells. This was to tackle the gradual depletion of the island of Sardinia’s natural assets by tourists who visit regularly.
A spokesman for the island’s Forest Rangers told CNN as regards the French national fined $1,200: “The bottle was confiscated and is now in our operating room where we hold these confiscated items. At the end of the year we usually have many bottles of sand accumulated.”
Beaches with “incredible” colored, pink or very white sand are especially targeted, the spokesman added.
“Last year we found a website that was selling our sand as souvenirs. It’s become a very known phenomenon here in Europe,” he said.
Controls have become “much more rigorous” over the past three years, he said, adding: “The sanctions are much more serious — we work with the police and they alert us.”
The 41 tourists stole around 100kg of items from beaches in different incidents. Fines range between €500 and €3,000 ($600-$3,550), depending on the quantity taken and where it was removed from, sources say. The regulations were introduced, he said, because the incidents were becoming more frequent and increasingly problematic.
Most of the thieves involved in taking sand from the beaches are ostensibly European tourists, with some Italian visitors also looking to make some easy cash. In 2019, two French tourists were caught with 40kg of sand from the stunning coastal area of Chia on the island’s southern tip, crammed into plastic bottles in the boot of their car.
Members of the public were also admonished to alert authorities if they see tourists taking the sand. Police seized £88 of sand from a French couple who were visiting the island. A British resident was fined more than $1,000 in 2018, when authorities discovered sand taken from a beach near the northern city of Olbia.