A French couple in their forties was caught with 14 plastic bottles containing almost 90 pounds of Sardinian sand.
According to CNN, the police said the tourists claimed that they didn’t know that it was illegal to take the sand as a “souvenir,” but there are signs on the beaches in several languages that notify tourists or visitors.
“Sandy beaches are one of the main attractions of Sardinia. There are two threats: one is due to erosion, which is partly natural and partly induced by the increasing sea level due to climate change; the second is sand stealing by tourists,” Pierluigi Cocco, a resident of the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, and environmental scientist, told the BBC.
“Only a fraction of the tourists visiting Sardinia spend their time digging up to 40kg of sand each. But if you multiply half that amount times 5% of the one million tourists per year, in a few years that would contribute significantly to the reduction of beaches—the main reason why tourists are attracted by the island of Sardinia.”
A police officer told the outlet that sand theft is prevalent, adding that the sand has an illegal market on the internet.
“The people of Sardinia are very angry with tourists that steal shells and sand because it’s a theft (from) future generations that also puts at risk a delicate environment,” the officer told CNN.
The couple was on their way to France aboard a ferry from Porto Torres to Toulon, France, but police making routine checks found the sand in the trunk of their SUV.
A group of security officials from the Island that campaigns against the depletion of Sardina’s beaches established a Facebook page. It’s called “Sardegna Rubata e Depredata,” or “Sardinia, robbed and plundered.”
Their intention is to educate visitors and tourists, as stated on their page: “With the excuse of taking a souvenir, tourists, and visitors every year take away from the Island, what nature has taken thousands of years to create. Sand theft is a crime.”
The Facebook page also posted about Spanish guests who attempted to take a specimen of Pinna Nobilis. They were fined $3,300. “That will surely serve them as a lesson,” wrote the post.
The German Embassy in Italy published a notice referring to the prohibition and fines warning people not to take sand from the Island.
The German Embassy’s Facebook page reads:
“Taking sand is forbidden. What may seem like a small regulation, at first sight, is a serious matter in Sardinia. Tourists take tons of sand, stones, and shells every year as a souvenir from the island. This causes significant environmental damage and is therefore prohibited by law. And the penalty has it in itself: 500 €-3.000 €. so please leave the sand where it belongs.”