South just beats North with the most Blue Flag beaches

By INÊS LOPES – [email protected]

Algarve continues to be the region flying the most Blue Flags in Portugal, with 69 beaches awarded the distinction, five less than last year.

In total, eight Algarve beaches lost their Blue Flag this year, but there is reason to celebrate as a further three have been awarded the distinction which recognises their water quality, cleanliness, safety and services in 32 different criteria. Newly-awarded blue flag beaches are Forte Novo and Almargem (Loulé) and Pego Fundo (Alcoutim).

Popular beaches in the Lagoa council not flying the flag this year are Caneiros, Ferragudo, Carvoeiro, Vale de Centeanes and Senhora da Rocha. Três Castelos (Portimão), Vale do Olival (Silves) and Fuseta-Ria (Olhão) have also lost the award.

Lagoa Câmara said it did not apply its beaches for the European Blue Flag status this year because in 2011 it had spent a “significant amount, €30,000, to put forward six beaches”. It also said that several of its beaches were not suitable candidates due to their “unstable cliffs”.

José Archer from the European Blue Flag Association (ABAE) explained that some of these beaches, albeit safe when the tide is low, see their sand area greatly reduced when the tide is high, forcing bathers closer to the cliffs, some posing a danger.

Also in the Lagoa Council, Praia da Marinha, one of the most well known and photographed beaches in Portugal, has become unsafe for beach-goers in recent years, with severely eroded cliff bases and limited sand area at high tide.

Praia da Marinha is one of three Algarve beaches awaiting further studies before they can be considered suitable for bathers. As the Algarve Resident reported in the January 20 edition, Marinha and Carvalho in the Lagoa council and Prainha in Portimão may be classed as “dangerous” for bathers due to the risks posed by their cliffs.

It is possible that they will be designated “beaches of limited access” by the recently created Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (Portuguese Environment Agency), which means the number of bathers frequenting these beaches would be controlled.

Albufeira council continues to boast the most Blue Flags in the region, 20, the same number as last year, followed by Vila do Bispo and Loulé, with 10 Blue Flags each.

Portugal flags

In total, the Blue Flag will be flying at 275 beaches in Portugal, four more than last year.

José Archer said that 25 years ago, when ABAE was formed, only 30 beaches in Portugal had been awarded the Blue Flag while they had to follow 11 criteria. Nowadays, Portugal boasts one of the highest percentage of Blue Flag beaches in Europe, 52.2%.

After the Algarve region with the most Blue Flags is the north of the country with 67 beaches distinguished, followed by the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo region with 49, the Alentejo with 24 and the centre of the country with 23. The Azores and Madeira islands have 32 and 11 Blue Flags respectively.

Meanwhile, 14 marinas have also been awarded Blue Flags, four of which are in the Algarve – Albufeira, Lagos, Portimão and Vilamoura.

To raise awareness about the importance of preserving our coastline, the ABAE is promoting an initiative across the country’s beaches tomorrow (Saturday) entitled Maré Humana (Human Tide). Several Algarve beaches will be participating by hosting events to inform visitors about the environment, water quality and beach biodiversity as well as to prepare the population for the bathing season.

Algarve beaches flying the Blue Flag IN 2012

Albufeira: Arrifes, Aveiros, Belharucas, Castelo, Coelha, Evaristo, Falésia Açoteias, Falésia Alfamar, Galé-Leste, Galé-Oeste, Manuel Lourenço, Maria Luísa, Olhos d’Água, Oura, Oura-Leste, Rocha Baixinha-Nascente, Rocha Baixinha-Poente, S. Rafael, Salgados, Santa Eulália

Alcoutim: Pego Fundo

Aljezur: Arrifana, Monte Clérigo, Odeceixe-Mar

Faro: Barreta, Culatra-Mar, Faro-Mar, Ilha do Farol-Mar

Lagos: Batata, Camilo, D. Ana, Luz, Meia Praia, Porto de Mós

Loulé: Almargem, Ancão, Forte Novo, Garrão Nascente, Garrão Poente, Loulé Velho, Quarteira, Quinta do Lago, Vale de Lobo, Vilamoura

Olhão: Armona-Mar, Fuseta-Mar

Portimão: Alvor Nascente – Três Irmãos, Alvor Poente, Rocha, Vau

Silves: Armação de Pêra, Praia Grande Poente

Tavira: Barril, Cabanas-Mar, Ilha de Tavira-Mar, Terra Estreita

Vila do Bispo: Almádena-Cabanas Velhas, Burgau, Castelejo Cordoama, Ingrina, Mareta, Martinhal, Salema, Zavial

Vila Real de Santo António: Lota, Manta Rota Monte Gordo, Santo António