End of an island holiday. Customs investigators strike at Cagliari airport in Sardinia. The Guardia di Finanza, the Italian Financial Police caught two German women with 8.6 (!) kilos of shells and beach stones in their suitcase. Very expensive and forbidden souvenirs!
Most important beach rule in Sardinia: Take NOTHING with you - no sand, no shells, no plants, no stones. Those who do not comply can be fined more than 9,000 euros according to Sardinian regional law.
Just before the start of the high season, the Guardia di Finanza is doing a mussel check at the Aeroporto di Cagliari-Elmas Mario Mameli in Sardinia this week.
In addition to two German women with 8.6 kilos of beach contraband, the investigators caught two other Germans with prohibited luggage. The German men have 480 stones and 180 shells in their luggage. The officers also convicted three Spaniards, an Italian, a Lithuanian and a Russian.
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The ban on shellfish is regulated by the "Codice della Navigazione" (Article 1162). This states: "Whoever extracts sand, seaweed, gravel or other materials in the maritime area, in the territorial sea or in the port areas of inland navigation without permission shall be punished by the payment of a sum ranging from 1,549.00 euros to 9,296.00 euros."
The reason for the extreme penalties: Every summer, more than 2 million holidaymakers come to Sardinia. If only every 100th person packs a litre of sand, there won't be much left after the season. And the ecosystems of the bays get completely out of balance.
A cautionary example: the Sardinian island of Budelli is famous for its Spiaggia Rosa, its pink beach (by the way, the correct name of the bay is Cala di Roto). The sand is formed over decades and centuries from corals and shells. Then comes the first tourist boom in the 70s - and around 3000 people a day come to the bay. Many pack themselves a sandy "holiday memory". In the end, there is no pink sand left.
Today, Cala di Roto belongs to Zone A, the most protected zone of the Arcipelago di La Maddalena National Park in Sardinia. Because guests still pack themselves shells and sand despite warnings, video surveillance is decided last summer.
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More and more smaller beaches in Sardinia now have access restrictions: as soon as a certain number of people is reached, the beach is closed.
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Source: Guardia di Finanza; "Codice della Navigazione" ; Parco Nazionale Arcipelago di La Maddalena ; Pecora Nera/pecoranera.eu: "Prohibited souvenirs: taking beach sand and shells will be expensive".