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Is it illegal to take sand and pebbles from beaches?

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Plastic bottles full of sand were found in the boot of a French couple’s car in Sardinia

French tourists face six years in prison for taking 40kg of Sardinian sand

One-Minute Read James Ashford
Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 3:28pm

A French couple face six years in prison for allegedly stealing sand from an Italian beach.

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The tourists were stopped by police as they were about to board a ferry in Porto Torres, Sardinia, heading to Toulon in France. Officers found 40kg (88lb) of Sardinian sand taken from Chia beach in 14 plastic bottles in the boot of their car, reports The Guardian.

The couple told police they wanted to take the white sand home as a “souvenir” and didn’t know it was illegal to take it from the beach.

They now face between one and six years in prison for theft, with the aggravating circumstance of having stolen “an asset of public utility” says the BBC.

And under an Italian law introduced in 2017, trading sand, pebbles and shells is also illegal, and punishable with fines of up to €3,000 (£2,750).

Pierluigi Cocco, Sardinian resident and environmental scientist, told the BBC: “Sandy beaches are one of the main attractions of Sardinia. There are two threats: one is due to erosion, which is partly natural and partly induced by the increasing sea level due to climate change.”

The second is “sand stealing by tourists” who have been known to bottle sand and sell it on online auction sites, he said.

The couple are not the first to get in trouble for the offence. In 2018, a UK-based Italian man was fined €1,000 (£930) after stealing sand from a beach near the Sardinian city of Olbia, says The Daily Telegraph. Over the summer, more than 200kg of looted sand has been found in tourists’ luggage at the island’s airport in Cagliari, according to Italian news channel TgCom24.

And the problem goes beyond Sardinia. Residents of some Greek islands have been forced to hang up posters urging people to “take pictures, not pebbles” to stop tourists making off with their coastline’s famous white stones, says Culture Trip. The practice is illegal, and tourists flouting the rules can expect fines of between €400 and €1,000.

What’s the situation in the UK?

Removing any natural material - including sand and pebbles - from public beaches in the UK is illegal under the Coastal Protection Act 1949. It up to local councils to enforce the law, and offenders can be fined up to £1,000.

Last year, a holidaymaker was forced to drive hundreds of miles back to Cornwall to return pebbles he had taken from Crackington Haven beach near Bude, reports The Daily Telegraph.

And the theft of sand isn’t restricted to holidaymakers, So called “grain gangs” have been using JCB diggers to steal tonnes of sand from UK beaches and sell it to builders, reports Metro.

Europe
Beaches Italy Sardinia

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