A French tourist has been ordered to pay a fine of €1,000 (RM5,000) after attempting to fly out of Sardinia with 2kg of sand he had “stolen” from a local beach stashed in his luggage.
The Italian island’s idyllic white sand is protected, and tourists face fines and even jail time for removing it from local beaches.
Anyone who secretly removes sand from the island’s beaches can be fined as much as €3,000 (nearly RM15,000).
The unnamed man was apprehended at Cagliari Elmas Airport on Sept 1, after he was found in possession of a bottle containing 2kg of contraband sand.
A spokesman for the island’s Forest Rangers told CNN: “The bottle was confiscated and is now in a safe room where we hold these items. At the end of the year we usually have many containers of sand accumulated.”
In 2017, a regional law was introduced that made it illegal to take sand from Sardinia’s beaches.
Fines levied depend on the quantity taken and where it was removed from, according to the spokesman.
The regulations were introduced, he said, because the incidents were becoming more frequent and in danger of getting out of control.
The prospect of denuded beaches loomed.
Beaches with “incredible” 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 well-known phenomenon here in Europe,” he said.
Controls have become “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.”
Members of the public also contact the authorities if they see tourists plundering the beach and making off with illicit sand.
Last year, police seized 40kg of sand from a French couple visiting the island.
And in 2018, a British resident was fined more than €800 (RM4,000) when authorities discovered his secret sand stash taken from a beach near the northern city of Olbia.
A search of eBay today gave just one result for Sardinian sand for sale: A miniature bottle of grey sand from Le Bombarde Beach, Alghero, Sardinia, selling for US$2.26 or just under RM10.