Here's an environmental issue that I was unaware of... people are stealing beach sand and using it for construction. Thanks Whitney K. for sending me the link.
Where's the economics?
For starters, the fine for stealing sand is too low in some of the nations cited in the article. We know that if the fine/fee does not correspond to actual damages incurred, the result will be an inefficient amount of the hazardous activity. Clearly there is a need for determining the economic loss associated with harvesting sand illegally so that the proper fine can be imposed (while factoring the probability of catching the offender).
Could this activity be the result of incentives created by regulation in other markets? For example, if limestone mining or legal sand mining is regulated via a tax, there is an economic incentive to seek an alternative. My understanding is that this is not the case in most of the Caribbean (in many cases mining is in fact subsidized), but it may be true in some nations.
Mostly I see this as a typical poaching problem: we have an open-access resource where use/harvest is "regulated" on paper, but the regulations are inefficient and not properly enforced.