A French tourist has been hit with a €1,000 (AU$1,631) fine after trying to take around 2 kilograms of sand from an Italian beach.
The tourist was caught at the Cagliari Elmas Airport with the Sardinian sand in a bottle earlier this month. The Italian island’s sand is protected with tourists liable for jail time if they’re caught trying to take it from the white beaches after a law introduced in 2017 made it illegal to remove sand from the beaches.
Fines for the act range between €500 and €3,000 based on how much is taken.
"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,” a spokesperson for Sardinia’s Forest Rangers told CNN.
They said beaches with unusual coloured sand, like pink or white sand, are often targeted with the sand then sold as souvenirs overseas.
In a separate statement, Sardinian authorities said they’re cracking down on the theft as it degrades the environment.
“These behaviours not only harm the environment but also compromise the maintenance of the coastline for the sustainable development of tourism in Sardinia," they said. Locals have also been urged to report the theft, with customs agents carrying out checks when travellers leave.
A French couple was last year caught trying to leave the island with 40 kilograms of the pilfered sand, saying they had taken it as a souvenir.
"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 Sardinian environmental scientist told the BBC at the time.
"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 per cent of the 1 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."
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