Tourists’ raunchy rule breaking causes extreme damage to sand dunes in Canary Islands

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The study from the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Flinders University looked at the impact of different tourist activities on sand dunes. Research was focused on Dunas de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve on the island of Gran Canaria.

Tourists engaging in outdoor activities, including al fresco sex, had impacted many important dune ecosystems, according to the study.

The study found that 10 plant species had been damaged by people having outdoor sex in the dunes.

Eight of the species were native and three are endemic to the Canary Islands’ specific type of sand dune.

The study was called ‘Sand, Sun, Sea and Sex with Strangers, the five S’s’ and looked into various activities and their environmental impacts on a protected costal dunefield’.

The study said: “The bigger the sex spot, the higher the number of people who made use of it, the greater the likelihood of it being a low-lying area covered by vegetation and the larger the amount of waste.”

Flinders University Professor, Patrick Hesp, said: “No matter what the human activity, popular coastal tourist locations need to closely monitor ecology and erosion trends.”

The study also found that waste left from these activities was negatively impacting the environment.

The researchers said the study was not intended to target or criticize a particular group for its actions.

The Dunas de Maspalomas Special Nature Reserve is unique for its 400 hectares of sand dunes and lagoons.

According to local news reports, straying from the designated paths in the dunes can result in a fine.

Tourists can be fined between €150 (£128) and €600 (£513) for minor offences but serious offences could result in a fine of €600,000 (£513,396).

Visitors need to stick to the eight kilometers of marked out trails within the dunes as part of the park’s environmental measures.

This means that walking across the dunes, surfing down the dunes and sunbathing are among the activities that result in a fine.

There are a team of six caretakers and a police patrol who have the power to enforce the fines.

Tourist activity has caused so much damage that authorities now transport sand back to the dunes from the seashore rather than lose it to the ocean.

In another environmental move, 15,000 tilapia fish were removed from the lagoon as they were seen as an invasive species.


The island of Gran Canaria is an extremely popular tourist destination for British travellers looking to enjoy fantastic beach weather.

It’s not the only area in Spain where tourist activity has had a negative impact on the natural environment.

Tourists have been criticised on the island of Majorca for damaging seagrasses when dropping anchor on boats.

Posidonia Oceania has protected status but is often damaged by anchors from tourist boats.

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