Locations have to pass a strict set of 32 criteria including water quality, safe bathing, services, environmental education and environmental management.
The Blue Flag is an internationally recognised label that is awarded each year and regarded as a symbol of exemplarily environmental quality. The scheme was started by the French in 1985 and went international in 1987 and now features in almost 4,000 sites in 46 countries.
Each location must display information about the Blue Flag, about water quality and the code of conduct that governs the use of the beach and surrounding areas. They must also offer environmental education activities and information relating to local eco systems and environmental phenomena.
Water quality needs to be tested frequently and no industrial waste water or sewage related discharges are allowed. Bins should be made available in adequate numbers and there should also be access for the disabled and adequate and clean toilet facilities.
Other criteria include strict control of access to the beach by dogs and other domestic animals and an adequate number of lifeguards and/or lifesaving equipment must be available at the beach along with first aid equipment. Blue flag beaches must also have an emergency plan to cope with pollution risks.
This year there is a Blue Flag smart phone app, developed in partnership with Kvorning Group. It allows visitors to find the closest Blue Flag beach or marina and easily get there.
Malcolm Powell, chairman of the International Blue Flag Jury, said there has been an increase in the number of marinas and beaches attaining Blue Flag status. â€˜There was an obvious increase in the quality of the applications for 2013 as the international jury did not reject any which I think is the first time that has happened,â€™ he explained.
More Blue Flag sites available for the public means more safety and services, and especially more environmental information and education, according to Sophie Bachet, the Blue Flag International Director.
â€˜This is crucial as we need to ensure that the public understands the environment and what they can do to protect it,â€™ she added.