Dozens of people have been fined after police confiscated more than 200 pounds of stolen shells, stones and sand from protected beaches on the Italian island of Sardinia.
Customs on the Mediterranean island issued fines of up to 3,000 euros ($3,600) to 41 tourists who tried to leave the island with souvenirs from the pristine beaches, Italian news reports said.
According to LaPresse, in some cases tourists put the souvenirs up for sale on the internet, sustaining a thriving and illegal market for such things. Authorities have brought back the seized sand to the beaches when possible.
Sardinia is a big Italian island in the Mediterranean. The island has almost 2,000 kilometers of coastline, sandy beaches and a mountainous interior with hiking trails.
Trade in pebbles, shells and sand was made illegal in Sardinia in 2017 and, while the fines sound steep, they are part of measures to tackle a long-term problem.
Authorities monitor ports and airports using metal detectors and X-rays to spot bottled sand in travelers' luggage during customs checks.
The seizures were made "despite the significant drop in the number of tourists on the island the past summer season'' because of the continuing world health crisis, authorities said.
More than a ton of sand was found in tourists' luggage at the Cagliari airport during the summer of 2017, Italian authorities said.
In October 2020, four people - two from Poland, one from Italy and one from France - were stopped with 253 shells, 12 pebbles, and nearly a kilo of sand.
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