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EBay removes sand listings purportedly from Hawaii beaches

Updated: 
November 4, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — Online auction and sales giant eBay has removed numerous listings advertising the sale of sand purported to be from Hawaii beaches, including iconic Papakolea Beach — also known as Green Sands Beach — after the Tribune-Herald inquired about the sand sales.

The listings, which appeared on eBay as recently as Wednesday, were in apparent violation of a Hawaii law that prohibits the taking of beach sand. The statute contains a limited number of exceptions that don’t include personal or commercial sales.

“It’s illegal to take sand from Hawaii beaches,” Deborah Ward, state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman, told the Tribune-Herald Wednesday. “It used to be legal to take sand up to a certain amount per person, per day. However, the law was changed, and taking sand is now illegal.”

Listings, which were removed early Thursday, included a seller identifying itself as “Scoobs Sand Store,” which touted 2 milliliter vials of olivine sand touted to be from Papakolea Beach for $3.50 plus shipping from Knightdale, North Carolina. The seller’s page also advertised white sand from Haleiwa, Oahu, for $4.50 a pound, sand from Lihue, Kauai, for $14.95 or best offer, and 18 display vials with sands from various Hawaii beaches with maps “for teachers” for $35.

Scoobs wasn’t the only entity attempting to sell what was billed as Hawaii beach sand on eBay.

A seller in Henderson, Tennessee, going by “tbav” listed a 10 mL vial billed as a “used” sample of sand from Papakolea Beach. In addition, tbav hawked sand said to be from Hana Bay, Maui, Honouli Way Bridge on Molokai and Hulopoe Bay, Lanai. Hulopoe sand also was advertised by a “sorens-stuff” from Arlington, Tennessee.

Wares from a West Jordan, Utah, seller with the handle “ironclad-collection” included sand advertised as from Hilo Bayfront, Onekahakaha, Honolii and Kapoho beaches on the Big Island, plus Kaihalulu Beach red sand from Maui. Kaihalulu sand also was advertised by a “catladyforever3” from Sand Lake, Michigan, who also offered black sand from Waianapanapa State Park on Maui.

Two pounds of sand allegedly from Sunset, Waikiki, Lanikai and Kailua beaches on Oahu were available for purchase from a “mahalo*market” in Lehigh Acres, Florida., while “ronwao1949” also advertised sand reportedly from Haleiwa Beach Park.

And a seller with the moniker “818valley2015” from Pacoima, California, listed black sand with an ad showing an iPhone screen shot of Punaluu Black Sand Beach Park in Ka‘u, while “lamarrfashions” in Kalispell, Montana, simply advertised “Hawaiian Black Sands Beach” sand from the Big Island.

Hawaii Revised Statutes section 205A-44 prohibits “the mining or taking of sand, dead coral, rubble, rocks, soil, or other beach or marine deposits from the shoreline area” with exceptions including: residual sand on the body, beach towels, slippers, etc.; deposits on collected driftwood, shells, or glass floats; and sand taken during lawfully recognized traditional cultural practices and legally permitted mining.

Civil penalties for violating the law can be steep — “a civil fine not to exceed $100,000” or “a civil fine not to exceed $10,000 a day for each day in which the violation persists” — according to HRS section 205A-32.

Ward said DLNR is investigating one case of “sale of sand” on social media, but didn’t say if the alleged sale was on eBay. She acknowledged it’s difficult to prevent such sales in the age of social media, and added, “Educating the public is our best prevention.”

EBay collects a percentage of each sale on its website, which means it profited from the sales of Hawaii beach sand, regardless of whether the sales were legal. Percentages vary depending on the category of merchandise and whether the merchandise was auctioned or sold at a fixed price.

Ryan Moore, eBay director of global corporate affairs and communication, said in an email Thursday the company acted after the Tribune-Herald notified it of the law barring the taking of sand from Hawaii beaches and the open DLNR investigation.

“While we haven’t been directly contacted by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, we are certainly willing to work with them on the best way to address this issue in the future,” Moore said. “We’ve removed the active listings on the marketplace and have educated the sellers that listing these products are against eBay policy.”

Ken Lawson, an attorney and faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law, said eBay has a responsibility to police potentially illegal activity on its website.

“I think if (the sellers) purport that they’re selling sand from Hawaii beaches, they’re doing it on eBay and it’s a violation of Hawaii law, then eBay does have a duty … to let them know that that’s not a legal sale,” Lawson said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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