Spanish beaches head world 'blue flag' league

2nd June 2005, Comments 0 comments

2 June 2005, MADRID — Spain, where legions of tourists flock seeking sun and sea, has taken over as the nation with the most beaches with a 'blue flag'.

2 June 2005

MADRID — Spain, where legions of tourists flock seeking sun and sea, has taken over as the nation with the most beaches with a 'blue flag'.

The distinction recognises the quality of coastal sands and water sought by 38 competing countries.

The coveted flag will fly over 478 Spanish beaches this year, or 28 more than in 2004. Spain has 7,500 kilometres (4,660 miles) of beaches.

The blue flag is an honour granted annually by a jury made up of members of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), EUCC-The Coastal Union, the World Tourism Organization and the International Lifesaving Federation (ILS).

The jury, which works with the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), examines coastal areas in the nearly 40 countries participating in the blue flag campaign, most of them in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

The blue flag's prestige is growing, according to campaign officials, leading more and more countries to join each year.

The programme began as a French initiative for the celebration of the 'European Year of the Environment' in 1987.

The blue flag has become one of the main gauges for evaluating the quality and safety of beaches, since any beach certified under the programme must meet certain minimum requirements.

The criteria cover water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management and safety and services.

About 14 percent of Spain's more than 3,000 beaches meet the requirements for blue-flag status.

The majority of the 50 million tourists who come to Spain each year head for the beach, according to statistics.
On the list of blue-flag beaches, which Spain tops, appear other European countries, including Greece, with 383, France, with 273, and Denmark, which has 212.

Italy, has 205 blue flag beaches, Portugal, 191, Turkey 174, and Britain and Croatia, with about 100 each, also made the list.

Caribbean beaches have also been chasing the blue flag in recent years, adopting FEE standards, although their numbers trail those of the European countries.

Puerto Rico and Jamaica have four beaches flying the blue flag, while Barbados has garnered only one blue flag.

The Dominican Republic and the Bahamas have also made the list of countries with blue-flag beaches.

This year, for the first time, two beaches in Morocco, five in Poland and five in Canada earned blue flags.

Pilot programmes are under way in the United States, Brazil, Chile and New Zealand.

Blue flags can be taken away or granted on an annual basis by the jury.

In the north-western Spanish region of Galicia, for example, some beaches lost their blue flags after the oil tanker Prestige sank in late 2002, causing extensive environmental damage.

This year, Galicia's coast will be dotted by 92 blue flags, 11 more than in 2004, reflecting the recovery from the effects of the oil spill.

Experts said the biggest threats to the world's beaches are pollution and development.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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