Blue Flag beach

Blue Flag, 2007

The Blue Flag is a certification by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE)[1] that a beach, marina or sustainable boating tourism operator meets its stringent standards.

The Blue Flag is a trademark owned by FEE which is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organisation[2] consisting of 65 organisations in 60 member countries in Europe, Africa, Oceania, Asia, North America and South America.

FEE's Blue Flag criteria include standards for water quality, safety, environmental education and information, the provision of services and general environmental management criteria. The Blue Flag is sought for beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators as an indication of their high environmental and quality standards.

Certificates, which FEE refers to as awards, are issued on an annual basis to beaches and marinas of FEE member countries. The awards are announced yearly on 5 June for Europe, Canada, Morocco, Tunisia and other countries in a similar geographic location, and on 1 November for the Caribbean, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries in the southern hemisphere.[3]

In the European Union, the water quality standards are incorporated in the EC Water Framework Directive.

Blue Flags awarded

2015 Awards

As a result of the 2015 awards, a total of 4,154 Blue Flags are waving around the world.[4]

Table of Blue Flags in force 2015

The table below lists the Blue Flags (both for beaches and marinas) awarded and in force in 2015.

The table can be sorted to show the total number of Blue Flags per country and also the number of Blue Flags per population, per area or per the length of the coastline of each country.

Country Blue Flag Beaches[4] Blue Flag Marinas [4] Total Blue Flags[4] Population Area (km2) Coastline (km) [5] Blue Flag Beaches per 1,000,000 Population Total Blue Flags per 1,000,000 Population Blue Flag Beaches Density per 10,000 km2 Area Total Blue Flags Density per 10,000 km2 Area Blue Flag Beaches per 100 km coastline
 Belgium 1292110,754,52830,528670.461.211.644.267.46
7 2 9
 Bulgaria 101117,606,551110,8793540.921.050.630.721.98
 Cyprus 57057801,6009,25164866.1266.1257.2957.298.18
 Denmark 250503005,515,28743,0947,31437.8950.2248.5064.282.86
 Dominican Republic2102110,090,00048,3101,2880.690.691.451.450.54
Estonia 2 0 2
England 61 0 61
 France (inc. territories)3949849265,073,482632,7604,6684.385.524.505.676.11
 Germany 4210614882,046,000357,0222,3890.481.881.094.311.63
 Greece 395 943311,257,285131,95713,67637.7538.4632.2132.813.11
Israel 25 3 28
Jordan 5 0 5
 Latvia 163191,990,30064,5894984.505.501.391.701.81
 Malta 909413,6273161972.422.4231.6531.650.51
Mexico 20 1 21
 Montenegro 18018624,00013,81229430.4530.4513.7613.766.46
 New Zealand0224,318,700270,46715,1340.460.690.070.110.01
Northern Ireland 10 2 12
 Puerto Rico 92113,982,0008,8705011.261.765.647.891.00
Scotland 1 0 1
Serbia 1 0 1
Sint Maarten 1 0 1
 South Africa3964552,980,0001,221,0372,7981.551.550.670.672.93
Trinidad and Tobago 1 0 1
UAE 24 4 28
Ukraine 4 0 4
US Virgin Islands 4 2 6
Wales 41 1 42

Note: Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland have always been treated as individual countries e.g. in 2013 Ireland had 73 Blue Flag beaches and marinas, England had 55 Wales had 38 and Scotland 3.[Blue Flag Website 1]


The Blue Flag was created in France in 1985 as a pilot scheme where French coastal municipalities were awarded the Blue Flag on the basis of criteria covering sewage treatment and bathing water quality.

Blue Flag on European Community level in 1987

1987 was the "European Year of the Environment" and the European Commission was responsible for developing the European Community activities of that year. The Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE) presented the concept of the Blue Flag to the Commission, and it was agreed to launch the Blue Flag Programme as one of several "European Year of the Environment" activities in the Community.

The French concept of the Blue Flag was developed on European level to include other areas of environmental management, such as waste management and coastal planning and protection. Besides beaches marinas also became eligible for the Blue Flag.

In 1987, 244 beaches and 208 marinas from 10 countries were awarded the Blue Flag.


There have been increases in the numbers of Blue Flags awarded each year. The criteria have during these years been changed to more strict criteria. As an example, in 1992 the Programme started using the restrictive guideline values in the EEC Bathing Water Directive as imperative criteria, and this was also the year where all Blue Flag criteria became the same in all participating countries.

Outside the European Union

In 2001, FEEE rules were changed to allow non-European national organisations, sharing the objectives of FEEE, to become members, and changed its name by dropping Europe from its name, becoming the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE).

Several organisations and authorities outside the European Union have joined FEE. FEE has been cooperating with UNEP and UN WTO on extending the Programme to areas outside Europe. South Africa, Canada, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand and four countries in the Caribbean region are members of FEE. Aruba, Brazil and Malta are currently in the pilot phase of the Programme and Jordan, Macedonia, Turks & Caicos Islands, Ukraine and United Arab Emirates have started the implementation of the Blue Flag Programme.

FEE standards allow for regional variations in beach criteria to reflect specific environmental conditions of a region. As of 2006 an international set of criteria is being used with some variations.

Extension of the award to sustainable boating tourism operators

In 2016, Blue Flag extended its programme boat-based tourism activities like nature watching (whale watching, bird watching, cage diving etc.), recreational fishing, diving and crewed charter tours. Certified tour operators have to comply with criteria regarding the sustainable operation of their boats and their business as a whole.

Present program

In 2015 over 4,154 beaches and marinas globally were awarded the Blue Flag.[Blue Flag Website 1]

47 countries are currently participating in the Blue Flag Programme: Bahamas, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Serbia, Sint Marteen, Scotland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, US Virgin Islands and Wales.

Blue Flag beach criteria

Blue Flag beach in Selce, Croatia

Environmental education and information

Water quality

Environmental management

Safety and services

Blue Flag marina criteria

Environmental education and information

Environmental management

Safety and service

Water quality

Microbiological test as evidence for bacterial free

Blue Flag sustainable boating tourism operator criteria

Environmental education and information

Environmental management

Safety and services

Social responsibility

Responsible tourism

Additional criteria for specific wildlife-based activities

The criteria presented above apply to all tour operators that want to be awarded the Blue Flag. In addition, tour operators that offer whale watching, bird watching, seal watching, cage diving, recreational fishing and diving have to comply with additional criteria for the respective activity. These criteria are tailored to the different tourist experiences and take into account the specific environmental issues related to them. They include for example approach distances to different animal species, the correct use of equipment and the humane handling of animals that are caught during recreational fishing tours.


  1. Bysted A/S. "FEE - Foundation for Environmental Education". Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  2. "Blue Flag Programme". Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  3. Blue Flag beaches/marinas. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 4
  1. 1 2 "Blue Flag Website". The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). Retrieved 29 August 2013.

External links

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