Fewer beaches in the Algarve – four less in total – have been awarded European Blue Flags than last year. Nevertheless, the region continues to be the most awarded in the country – a total of 43 beaches and four marinas have been honoured in 2004. And local authorities have made clear that the exclusion of certain Algarve beaches from the Blue Flag award does not stem from poor water quality but from the lack of appropriate ‘technical’ conditions at the respective locations.
This year, beaches at Altura (Castro Marim), Manta Rota (Vila Real de Santo António), Burgau (Vila do Bispo), Olhos d’Água (Albufeira) and Pêgo Fundo (Alcoutim) – a beach that had its award withdrawn in the middle of last year’s bathing season – have all been stripped of their Blue Flag status. Meanwhile, the beach at Faro Island has received the Blue Flag for the first time this year.
The number of Blue Flag Algarve marinas remains the same as last year, but Vila Real de Santo António (VRSA) leaves the list and Albufeira enters it. In fact, the concelho of Vila Real do Santo António comes off worse than any other Algarve coastal area, meriting two fewer Blue Flags than last year.
The award of the coveted blue flag depends not only on water quality, but also on information, education, environmental management and other resources. And, according to the president of the Portuguese Blue Flag Association, José Archer, only the beaches of Matosinhos, in the north, were excluded owing to poor water quality. “All the other exclusions stem from the lack of the necessary infrastructure and manpower at the beaches’ disposal,” he said.