The Blue Flag Beach Program

An international effort to create beach wellness

Beaches, like every other aspect of life, come in many variations, some better than others. How can you know if the beach you want to visit is going to be clean, safe and with the amenities you need? Or if the organizations taking care of it are acting in environmentally responsible ways?

Founded in France in 1985, the “Blue Flag” program is the brainchild of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), and sets stringent criteria for beaches that want to be recognized as members. Since its inception, the Blue Flag program has grown to include 3,450 beaches in 41 countries, and it’s now headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In order to be considered as a Blue Flag location, a beach must comply with 32 criteria; these evolve and change as environmentally related issues shift and develop. While FEE oversees the program, each country that becomes involved must have its own national (or, in some cases, regional) non-profit environmental authority willing to undertake the task of compliance for its beaches.

Those beaches that do comply and are awarded a blue flag are literally given a blue flag with the Blue Flag program logo on it to display on site. The flags are awarded for one season at a time and if environmental conditions on the flagged beach change during that season, the flag may be withdrawn until appropriate adjustments are made.

In order to comply (the criteria is very detailed; this is a summary) beaches much be clean, except for natural debris such as algae and seaweed. They must have bins for rubbish and recyclable materials. There must be toilets or restrooms, preferably including wheelchair-accessible cubicles. Access to the beaches by the likes of domestic pets must be controlled. An example of this would be Kew-Balmy Beach in Toronto’s east end where dogs walk happily on their leashes along the boardwalk, and their owners are certain to removed any feces deposited.

There can be no motorized vehicles permitted on the beach, no unauthorized camping, and absolutely no dumping. Drinking water must be available, if not right on the beach, within a very short walk. First aid, if there are no on-duty lifeguards, must be available and visible. And reefs, if any, must be monitored.

At BeachReviews.org we are committed to healthy beaches, too, and because of this, we have included in our beach destination listings whether or not a beach is blue-flagged by the FEE. We try our best to stay current, but with 10,000 or more beaches on the planet, we might not always know when one beach is withdrawn. You can help keep us current by letting us know.

The Blue Flag program of FEE is a superb way to create awareness of the environment that we enjoy when we visit a beach. We recommend you explore their website and if your country is not represented, perhaps you know of an environmental organization that could spearhead the connection. The FEE Blue Flag program can be found online at www.blueflag.org. Visit and learn.

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