The award is given by the Blue Flag International Jury which meets twice a year (for short and long bathing season beaches) and consists of environmental specialists, as well as members of life-saving and coastal conservation organisations. At their latest meeting on 26th of September the Jury awarded 90 beaches and 19 marinas, which means the total number of awarded sites increased to 3850.
Malcolm Powell, Chair of the International Blue Flag Jury, said: “Not only was there an increase in the number of marinas and beaches, but there was an obvious increase in the quality of the applications as the international jury did not reject any - which I think is the first time that has happened.”
Increasing numbers and the quality of Blue Flag sites is positive news especially for those who love sunbathing, swimming or sailing. “More Blue Flag sites available for the public worldwide means more safety and services, and especially more environmental information and education,” Sophie Bachet, the Blue Flag International Director explained. She added: “This is crucial as we need to ensure that the public understands the environment and what they can do to protect it.”
In addition to environmental protection, the Blue Flag has an important social impact. In South Africa, for example, some beaches that were previously located in disadvantaged neighbourhoods have been transformed from “no-go” crime-ridden areas to exemplary family beaches after their inclusion in the programme. “Blue Flag is an invaluable means of managing South Africa’s three thousand kilometres of coastline,” Ted Knott from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) said.
The Blue Flag programme, which is celebrating its 25th year, continues to expand throughout the world. Latest applicants are Aruba, Mauritius and Mexico. These countries believe that Blue Flag will help to protect their ecosystems. “Our organisation displays the programme as an opportunity for Mexican beaches opening their doors to European tourism and thereby improving environmental conditions and opportunities for community development,” the Mexican national operator, Joaquín Diaz, said.
The Blue Flag programme is run by the international non-government organisation, the Foundation for Environmental Education which is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The International Blue Flag Jury is composed of representatives from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), International Lifesaving Federation (ILS), the European Environment Agency (EEA), European Union for Coastal Conservation (EUCC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an Environmental Education expert, the International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA) and FEE. It also greatly appreciates the support of its sponsors: Corona Extra, Shipmate and BeachTech.