Dozens of tourists will have to pay dearly for their souvenirs from Sardinia's pristine beaches.
On Saturday, Italian media said customs police on the Mediterranean island issued fines of up to 3,000 euros ($5,060) to 41 people who in recent days tried to leave the island with a total of 100 kilograms of sand, seashells and beach rocks.
The LaPresse news agency said in some cases tourists had put the beach booty up for sale on the internet, feeding a flourishing, illicit market for such souvenirs, including from swank resort areas along the Italian island's Emerald Coast.
Bags of sand, shells and stones were seized at Sardinia's airports and ports in keeping with a 2017 regional law that established fines ranging from 500 euros ($850) to 3,000 euros. The seized sand was brought back by authorities to the beaches when possible.
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The law aims to prevent the cumulative effect of removing sand and shells by the millions of tourists who flock each year to the Mediterranean island, which is renowned for long stretches of pristine sandy beaches.
A Facebook page set up to cover the issue called 'Sardinia Robbed and Plundered' reported that it had found sand souvenirs for sale on the internet. Local news site L'Union Sarda reported that this black market for beach souveniri has ties to other organised crime operations.
As Europe prepares for summer the Guardia di Finanza, the enforcement arm of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said that checks and penalties would be stepped up:
"The device to combat these offenses - reads a note - will be further strengthened, as per the agreements reached at the provincial level between the Guardia di Finanza of Sassari and the Customs and Monopoly Agency ".
In 2019, couple visiting Sardinia from France were stopped with 40kg of sand in the boot of their SUV. It was later deemed that the tourists were not aware that they were breaking the law, though quite what they intended to do with 14 litre bottles of pebbles was not clear.
- Associated Press, with additional reporting