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In the last four months, officials at Fuerteventura airport have had to confiscate more than 4,500kg of sand, stones and shells. It is forbidden to transport sand home from the Spanish island.
The Council of Fuerteventura put out a reminder for residents and tourists about the laws on sand removal.
It is forbidden to remove natural materials from the island’s beaches including shells, stones and sand.
Every year, airport authorities are forced to return thousands of kilos of stolen sand to the beach.
Items are confiscated at the airport by the Civil Guard and then expert staff have to identify where it came from.
The most commonly stolen item is sand. Many tourists visit Fuerteventura to see its beautiful beaches.
Removing sand from the beach can have a major impact on the island’s natural environment.
In 2019, officials became exasperated at the number of tourists removing sand from Fuerteventura’s ‘popcorn’ beach.
The unusual beach is covered in fossilized algae which resembles thousands of pieces of fluffy popcorn.
Some visitors were so taken with the ‘popcorn’ they tried to take buckets of it home to their own countries.
While residents often take small amounts of ‘popcorn’ to decorate their homes, the Mayor said the situation was getting out of hand.
The beach used to be very secluded but suddenly received an influx of tourists due to social media posts.
Council leaders have tried to warn tourists that their thefts do more harm than good to the island.
Tourists are advised to “leave without a trace” about visiting one of the island’s beautiful beaches.
Sand theft is a fairly common crime around the world with many tourists unaware of the rules.
Many tourists took pink sand from the gorgeous Elafonisi beach in Greece until authorities banned its removal.
However, the stunning pink beach is thought to have been permanently impacted by the thefts.
It is also illegal to remove sand or shells from the beach in the beautiful island of Sardinia in Italy.
In 2020, 41 people were caught trying to steal sand from the islands and faced fines of 3,000 euros (£2,539).
Police even use X-rays to detect stolen sand in tourists’ luggage during airport custom checks.
White sand is particularly in demand while special types of fossils such as the ‘popcorn’ are also commonly stolen.
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