Warning: this harmless action on holiday can land you in prison...

Collecting souvenirs on the beach: is it really forbidden?

When you go on holiday by the sea, it's often tempting to take home a souvenir of your stay. But not everything is allowed. If you'd chosen seashells, sand or pebbles as souvenirs, be warned: they're forbidden!. Collecting sand, pebbles, flowers, shells or driftwood is not a harmless act and can result in heavy fines.

Why this ban?

These natural elements, although very common on beaches, are essential to the balance of the coastal ecosystem. Collecting them can have an impact on protected natural areas and cause a gradual deterioration in the marine environment. This is why national and local legislation often prohibits the collection of sand, pebbles or shells on beaches.

What are the penalties for breaching the ban?

Penalties vary from country to country and region to region, but they can be severe. For example, a couple of French tourists were arrested this summer for collecting sand on a beach in Sardinia, Italy. They face between 1 and 6 years in prison! In other countries, offenders can face fines of varying levels.

  • In FrancePenalties are set out in the French Environment Code. Under article L342-3 of the Code, "the act of destroying, mutilating or altering a protected natural feature [...] is punishable by a fine of 150 euros".
  • In the United StatesLaws vary from state to state, but collecting beach sand can result in fines of up to several hundred dollars.
  • In SpainIn some regions, fines of up to 3,000 euros are imposed on those who collect sand, stones or shells on their beaches.

A few tips to avoid unpleasant surprises

If you want to bring back souvenirs from your holiday without breaking the law, here are a few tips:

  • Opt for souvenirs bought in local shops rather than natural items from the beach.
  • Find out about the specific rules for the beaches you visit, as they can vary from one region to another.
  • If you have already collected sand, pebbles or shells on holiday, check the local regulations before returning home. It's better to leave these items where they are rather than be penalised.

Collecting sand, shells or pebbles on the beach may seem harmless, but it has harmful consequences for the environment and could cost you dearly. To avoid getting into trouble with the law and help preserve our natural spaces, opt for souvenirs bought in local shops and comply with the regulations in force.

Marc Dupont

Marc is the ultimate adventurer. A former survival instructor, he has a penchant for wild destinations and extreme challenges. From skydiving in New Zealand to solo trekking in Patagonia, Marc shares his tips for having unforgettable adventures while staying safe.

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