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Did you know...? You can be fined €3,000 for taking sand from Sardinia's beaches

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected]
Did you know...? You can be fined €3,000 for taking sand from Sardinia's beaches
Valle dell’Erica beach in Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia, Italy. Photo by Massimo Virgilio on Unsplash

The Italian island of Sardinia issues steep fines every summer to tourists caught trying to make off with rocks, sand and shells in their suitcases.

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Sardinia’s white sand beaches are world-famous - but anyone found taking, holding or selling sand, pebbles, stones or shells from the coast can end up with a fine of up to €3,000.

It might seem like a small problem, but removing sand and pebbles from beaches can have serious ecological consequences, campaigners say.

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A campaign group called Sardegna rubata e depredata ('Sardinia robbed and plundered') estimates that at least six tonnes of sand is taken from the island’s beaches each year, mostly by foreign visitors.

In 2017, it became illegal to remove sand, shells and pebbles from Sardinia’s beaches as they were classed as protected resources. 

People breaking these rules face fines of between €500 and €3,000 - and anyone caught attempting to take larger quantities risks a prison term, particularly if they are convicted on the charge of theft with the aggravating circumstance of having stolen a public asset.

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Despite the steep penalties, sand theft continues to be a problem on the island.

Customs officers at Sardinia’s Alghero airport say they regularly seize sand from the island’s beaches during systematic bag searches.

Items often found in the possession of departing passengers at the airport include plastic bottles filled with sand, hundreds of sea pebbles and shells, and even large rocks.

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Last year, a Frenchman was arrested after police found 41 kilograms of pebbles and stones from Lampianu beach in the boot of his car.

While those taking large quantities are suspected of trying to sell the sand online to specialist collectors, campaigners from Sardegna rubata e depredata said the majority of culprits usually “don’t really have a motive”.

“Perhaps to arouse the envy of friends and relatives, or to recreate the feeling of the holiday in their living rooms, or even to decorate a home aquarium,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

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