HOLIDAYMAKERS are being fined thousands of pounds for taking sand, stones and shells as souvenirs from Sardinian beaches.

Customs police on the Mediterranean island have slapped 41 travellers with penalties of up to €3,000 (£2,580) in the last few days alone.

Collectively they attempted to swipe 220lb (100kg) of beach items in separate incidents.

Italian media said in some cases people had put the beach booty up for sale online – feeding a flourishing and illicit market.

Removing Sardinia's famed white sand – and pebbles and shells – was made illegal in 2017.

Locals are said to be fed up with tourists trying to take a piece of the beach home with them – and then attempting to flog it for a profit.

There is even a dedicated Facebook page – called "Sardinia robbed and plundered" – to highlight the problem, which has 37,722 followers.

Visitors have been caught at airport and harbour customs checks, while police and the military have also been monitoring websites for unlawful sales.

Cops reported dozens of illicitly advertised beach items – some with "high prices".

So far this year police have already issued about €13,000 (£11,170), returning the seized items to the areas they were taken wherever possible, according to Sardinian newspaper L'Unione Sarda.

Islanders have warned the issue is creating an environmental emergency.

Pierluigi Cocco, an environmental scientist and resident of the Sardinian capital Cagliari, told the BBC that the beaches were "the main reason why tourists are attracted to the island of Sardinia".

He said that although taking sand home served as a reminder of a "treasured memory", it could contribute to the reduction of beaches in the future.

And this would pose a serious threat as climate change brings a rise in sea levels.

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