Blue Flag flies standard for beaches, marinas and boats
February 25, 2008
The Blue Flag is an eco-label awarded to thousands of beaches and marinas across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, New Zealand, Canada and the Caribbean.
The Blue Flag works towards sustainable development at beaches/marinas through strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services. The Programme includes environmental education and information for the public, decision makers and tourism operators. For boats there is a code of conduct.
The Blue Flag was first awarded in France in 1985 to French coastal municipalities for sewage treatment and bathing water quality. In 1987, which was the “European Year of the Environment”, the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE) presented the concept of the Blue Flag to the European Commission. The Blue Flag Programme was accepted as one of the “European Year of the Environment” activities in the Community.
In 2001 FEE became a global organisation, changing name from FEEE to FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education). FEE is an independent non-profit organisation which owns and runs the Blue Flag Programme. FEE has been co-operating with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Tourism Organization (WTO) on extending the Programme to areas outside Europe.
There are separate though interrelated criteria for beaches, marinas and boats. I’ve picked out some of the less obvious ones, to show the thought that has gone into them.
|Environmental education and information||5 criteria including: A minimum of 5 environmental education activities must be offered.|
|Water quality||5 criteria including: Algae or other vegetation should be left to decay on the beach unless it constitutes a nuisance.|
|Environmental management||10 criteria including: Sustainable means of transportation must be promoted in the beach area.|
|Safety and services||9 criteria including: A minimum of one Blue Flag beach in each municipality must have access and toilet facilities provided for disabled persons.|
|Environmental education and information||5 criteria including: The marina should be able to demonstrate that at least three environmental education activities are offered to the users and staff of the marina .|
|Water quality||1 criterion: Visually clean water (no oil, litter, sewage or other evidence of pollution). Although there isn’t a reference to a specific standard of water quality required, it seems that water quality is covered under the management side, and may perhaps depend on the marina’s location.|
|Environmental management||11 criteria including: Promotion of sustainable transportation.|
|Safety and services||6 criteria including: Facilities for disabled people.|
The individual Blue Flag can be awarded to interested boat owners/users wanting to contribute to the Blue Flag Programme. The boat owner signs a code of conduct declaring that he/she will act according to the environmental issues outlined in the code of conduct.
There are 13 issues in the environmental code of conduct covering protecting and respecting the environment, plants and animals, fishing practices and archaeological underwater findings, and encouraging other sailors to take care of the environment.
The flags show the year the award is valid for. At the end of the season the flags are sent to the nearest recycling centre, as the flags themselves comply with the textiles criteria of the EU Eco-label.
When I first read that the Blue Flag Programme receives sponsorship from various companies – with interests in beach cleaning equipment, advertising, a tour operator, boating equipment – I wondered about it s objectivity. But this is perhaps countered by the status of the Programme’s Main Partners:
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- World Conservation Union (IUCN)
- United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (not to be confused with the World Trade Organization (WTO)!)
- International Lifesaving Federation (ILS)
- Coastal Union (EUCC)
- International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA)
- European Union (the Directorate General for Environment), and
- Reef Check.
Blue Flag runs nationally in many countries. But whereas Brazil has only one national body overseeing the Programme, in the UK we seem to have a slightly different idea about nationhood, as different bodies run the Programme in different regions: for England and Northern Ireland there’s EnCams (Environmental Campaigns), for Scotland Keep Scotland Beautiful, and for Wales Keep Wales Tidy – and the Welsh body works with An Taisce (The National Trust for Ireland) in the Republic of Ireland.
This entry is part of the Infomancy Eco-Symbols Series.