The return of tourists to the island of Sardinia sees an increase of the theft of pink sand, pebbles and shells from Sardinia’s protected beaches.
An environmental campaign group, ‘Sardegna rubata e depredata’ (Sardinia robbed and plundered), estimates six tonnes of sand has been taken from the island’s beaches this year alone. Most of the culprits are foreign visitors.
Illegal to remove sand from Sardinia’s beaches
Classed as protected sources, in 2017 it became illegal to remove the sand and stones. If caught, the fines are between €500 and €3,000. Anyone caught taking larger amounts could face jail.
However, sand theft – and the number of fines issued to those caught stealing – rose again this summer.
Sand seized at airport
In July alone, customs officers at Sardinia’s Alghero airport seized 1.4 kilograms of sand, Ansa news agency reported on Tuesday.
One departing tourist reportedly had a rock weighing 1.2kg in their possession. All those caught with illegal souvenirs received a fine, the police said.
Campaigners said most culprits are foreign tourists who 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.
“Some do it probably because there is such a sense of discomfort in having to leave the island. They try in a desperate way to take it with them, in their hands, instead of keeping the memories in the heart,” the group said.
Budelli sand the most prized
Five years ago, the island of Budelli returned to the public domain. A judge handed it over to the Parco La Maddalena National Park.
The island was up for sale after its original owner filed for bankruptcy. New Zealand millionaire Michael Harte, an avowed conservationist, bought the island. He vowed to ensure it remained pristine.
Italy’s Senate in 2013 allocated €3million to buy Budelli back from Harte. It claimed preemptive rights because it belongs in the geomarine national park by the same name.
Harte raised concerns about the ability of the cash-strapped Italian government to properly fund the preservation of the island’s untouched ecosystem.
The pink sand of Budelli is being sold to collectors on the Internet, Sardegna Rubata e Depredata said.