Stealing or just bagging a souvenir?

By | Category: Travel destinations

The detaining of two French tourists in the Italian island of Sardinia for stealing sand from the beach at Chia should be a warning to all of us.

All beaches in Sardina have rules about not taking sand from beaches

The two face te possibility of serving between one and six years in prison for their actions. Why so severe a penalty for what some would say s just taking home a souvenir?

Firstly the two weren’t just taking a few grains but 40 kgs of the stuff. That must mean that it was planned. Were they just planning a sand feature in their garden or were they going, as has been suggested by some media outlets, to sell it on the internet?

Secondly, there seems to be a tradition of removing sand – albeit in smaller quantities – so the local authority passed measures in 2017 banning the removal of sand from any of Sardinia’s beaches. People have been fined for taking smaller quantities but 40kgs surely merits a harsher penalty.

The couple say they were taking it as a souvenir and didn’t know it was an offence to remove it. That argument is unlikely to cut much ice when they get to court.

It isn’t just in Sardinia that the removal of a natural feature is banned. Pebbles on some beaches in Wales also attract fines as does removing bush stones in Australia.

In other places there are local enterprises that bottle coloured sands and sell them on as souvenirs but the extraction s monitored and the quantities are small. Swiping 40 kgs of the twenty-one coloured sands from Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight would be the equivalent of probably a couple of hundred souvenir bottles and be worth a reasonable sum of money. There too, it is banned for people to just collect sand from the beach.

For the last seventy years in the UK it has been illegal to remove sand, or any natural features from beaches meaning that the problem has been recognised for some time.

France has similar legislation so the couple should have known there was a chance that it would be illegal in Sardinia as well.

You could argue that removing small amounts does not harm to the environment. Larger amounts as did the couple in Sardinia would. But where to draw the line?

Destinations wish to protect local sources of commercial activity and to preserve what they have. Often that is one of few attractions to visitors so without it, people might stay away. It would be difficult to say that visitors could take no more than a few grams or any small amount and monitor that. So authorities ban the removal.

Be warned, readers, leave what’s at the beach and on  the ground where it is so that future generations of visitors can enjoy it. Stick to collecting tacky fridge magnets instead!

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