The pristine white and pink sand beaches of Sardinia attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, many of whom pocket a seemingly insignificant amount of sand or shells as a souvenir. Now, though, visitors who take home more than just a photograph will face a hefty fine: Filling a bottle or baggie with sand, pebbles, or shells is a crime and will incur a penalty of between 500€ (about $580) and 3,000€ (about $3,482).
Advocates say taking sand from the beaches disrupts and disrespects nature La Spiaggia Rosa, a pink sand beach on the Sardinian island of Budelli, has been closed since the 1990s to protect the sand from erosion.
Sand theft, and its illegality, isn’t new – warning signs have long been posted at beaches, only to be ignored. However, officials are starting to crack down harder on offenses, catching sand thieves at the airport when they are passing through security or having their bags screened. The issue received increased attention lately after an Italian-born visitor who currently lives in the U.K. was fined more than $1,000 for taking sand from a beach near the Sardinian town of Olbia.
CNN reports that the administrators of the Facebook page Sardegna Rubata e Depredata (“Sardinia, Robbed and Plundered”) says, “During the last 20 years of activity we have seized tens and tens of tons of material. Every year we take care to bring everything back to the places of origin at the end of the summer season.” The page is run by airport security inspectors from Sardinia.
Locals don’t want to discourage tourism, but want to protect their islands’ natural beauty. The Facebook page tells visitors, “If you come on holiday in Sardinia remember to take photos, observe the magnificent nature, listen to the sounds, smell the scents of nature, keep the memories in your mind but do not take away because it does not belong to you but belongs to everyone.”
By Kathy McCabe