74 International Blue Flag and 45 National Green Coast Awards announced for Ireland in 2013 with stricter bathing water quality standards
Today, An Taisce announced the International Blue Flag Award and the National Green Coast Award recipients for 2013. The awards were presented by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D, at an awards ceremony held at Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Hall, Co. Dublin. The 119 awards offer something for everyone from hidden swimming spots, to busy urban beaches, world renowned surfing spots and first class marinas. These awarded beaches and marinas highlight the rich diversity of Ireland’s coastal and inland offerings.
The Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised eco-labels. The programme aims to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental practices and behaviours among beach and marina users. The 70 beaches and 4 marinas that achieved this award met a specific set of criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education and beach management.
In previous years, the Blue Flag water quality criteria was based on the 1976 EU Bathing Water Directive, however the new Blue Flag water quality criteria are based on the 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive which is in line with the latest scientific information and current best practice. The European Commission influenced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Guidelines developed their approach, which uses a risk-based evaluation and classification as a means to identify the potential risk of disease to bathers and to protect public health.
Accordingly, beaches must meet the “Excellent” standard of water quality in order to be considered for the Blue Flag Award. In 2013, awarded beaches were awarded based on their meeting the new bathing water quality criteria as set out in the 2006 EU Directive. Beaches that met the “Good” standard were not considered for the award though some of these would have been eligible under the old rules which were based on the 1976 EU Bathing Water Directive.
The classification of the bathing water is now based on water samples from a four year period instead of the monitoring results from a single bathing season, and gives stronger focus to the protection of public health and promotes a proactive approach to the management of bathing water quality.
As a result, there was a predicted decrease in Blue Flags awarded in 2013 with 74 awards being presented for the 2013 season. This was an overall reduction of 13 awards from the 2012 season. However, it is not all bad news as we are delighted to welcome Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown back into the Blue Flag programme and welcome a new Blue Flag marina in County Cork. The current 74 awards reflect the excellent standards achieved at these locations.
An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland is responsible for the operation of the Blue Flag programme in Ireland on behalf of the Foundation of Environmental Education.
The new stricter bathing water quality criteria saw the loss of Blue Flags at a number of locations for the 2013 bathing water season. These were at Skerries South Beach (Dublin), Donabate (Dublin), The Brook Beach Portrane (Dublin), The Velvet Strand Portmarnock (Dublin), Ballybunion North beach (Kerry), White Strand Miltown Malbay (Clare), Lahinch (Clare) and Ceibh an Spideal (Galway). Applications were not received for the following beaches. These beaches had been in receipt of the Blue Flag award in 2012: Dollymount (Dublin City), Morriscastle (Wexford), Bunmahon (Waterford), Redbarn (Cork), Garryvoe (Cork), Garretstown (Cork), Barleycove (Cork) and Old Head (Mayo). Mullaghmore in Sligo could not be awarded the Blue Flag as there are ongoing issues with livestock roaming on the main beach area creating an unsafe environment for beach users.
Three new Blue Flags were gained this year, at Dún Laoghaire Rathdown – Killiney & Seapoint and Cork – The Royal Cork Yacht Club. Killiney and Seapoint have regained flags and were last in receipt of Blue Flags in 2008. The Royal Cork Yacht Club is a new marina and has joined the programme in time for the 2013 season.
The New Blue Flag Ireland website
Today, An Taisce has also launched the brand new Blue Flag Ireland website which can be found at www.blueflagireland.org. This website is designed as a beach user resource providing information on each individual Blue Flag beach and marina. The website will incorporate general beach/ marina information, information about education activities, water quality and safety and services. This website will make it easier for beach users to find their perfect beach location, of which there is certainly plenty to choose from.
Green Coast Award
2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of the National Green Coast Award. The first awards were presented back in 2003 to four Co. Wexford beaches. Since then, the award has gone from strength to strength recognising beaches for their clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty. They may not have the necessary built infrastructure required to meet the criteria set for Blue Flag status however they are exceptional places to visit and enjoy our rich coastal heritage and diversity.
There was a small predicted decrease in beaches receiving the Green Coast Award for 2013. This is attributed to the implementation of the new bathing water quality criteria as set out in the 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive.
A number of Green Coast Awards were lost due to non-compliance with the new bathing water criteria based on the 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive. These are Skerries South Beach (Dublin), The Brook Beach Portrane (Dublin), Balcarrick (Dublin) and The Velvet Strand Portmarnock (Dublin), Mornington (Meath), Silverstrand (Mayo) and Ladies Bay (Donegal). Arklow South beach (Wicklow) lost its awards due to non-compliance based on insufficient water sample numbers. Applications were not received in respect of Dollymount (Dublin), Malahide (Dublin), Garryvoe (Cork) and Fountainstown (Cork) which had been in receipt of the award in 2012.
Newtown Cove, Co. Waterford has regained its Green Coast Award since last being awarded in 2011. Cross beach, Louisburgh, Co. Mayo also re-enters the Green Coast Award programme and has been awarded in respect of the 2013 bathing season.
Patricia Oliver, Director, An Taisce Education, speaking at the awards said, “Blue Flag and Green Coast awards at a beach or marina are a sign of quality. These awards are not easily achieved and represent to the public, locations which have been rigorously assessed. They also represent a real effort by local authorities to work towards the highest standards in water quality, beach management, safety and environmental excellence. The public has a huge part to play in valuing these priceless resources and An Taisce particularly recognises the dedicated work of Coastcare Groups around the coast which support their local authorities by caring for their beaches all year round.”
Speaking at the awards Minister Hogan said, ”An Taisce’ are to be congratulated in the way they have promoted and developed the Blue Flag and Green Coast Award, which raise environmental awareness and encourage good environmental behaviour among stakeholders. These programmes give a sound guarantee of excellent quality and standards to tourists and promote a sense of pride among local populations and beach management staff.”
Also speaking at the awards, Councillor Tom Joyce, An Cathaoirleach for Dún-Laoghaire Rathdown said, “Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council is delighted to have received two Blue Flags for the 2013 bathing season at Seapoint and Killiney. The awarding of these Blue Flags demonstrates the commitment of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown to best practice in managing our unique and diverse coastline which we are so fortunate to live alongside. Both of these beaches are very popular locations for local communities and I would like thank the work that is done by local coastal communities, beach users, coastcare groups, Council employees and individuals in maintaining these beaches to such high environmental standards. Once again, we are delighted to have achieved the high standards of the Blue Flag eco label and to see the Blue Flag flying at Seapoint and Killiney.”
For photographs of the awards ceremony see here