The Meaning of the Blue Beach Flag

Nadia Nadia

Written by Nadia

Misc
The Meaning of the Blue Beach Flag

The main thing about the blue beach flag—it’s not a warning flag

The blue flag is an international symbol for beaches that meet certain standards for safety, cleanliness, and environmental awareness. These standards are set by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), and beaches that meet the criteria are allowed to drop the blue flag.

In other words, the blue flag is a certificate of the environmental quality of the beach. It may seem like a marketing feature at first glance, but there are many tests and criteria the seashore area has to pass to obtain this mark and none of these beaches make money of their visitors.

Blue Beach Flag at Denia beach, Spain

What does a blue flag mean at the beach?

The beach or marina must pass 32 certain tests to have a Blue Flag. Here is the example of some of these criteria:

  • display information on water quality, map of beach and its facilities, beach rules or code of conduct,
  • comply with water quality sampling,
  • stand away from any industrial, urban wastewater, or sewage-related discharges,
  • adhere to the beach operator requirements and the local laws,
  • the beach must be clean,
  • algal vegetation or natural debris must be left on the beach,
  • the beach has to have waste bins or containers with separation, restrooms or toilets with controlled sewage,
  • no unauthorized camping or driving on the beach,
  • access to the beach with the dogs and other domestic animals must be strictly controlled,
  • The public must have access to Blue Flag beaches without being a client of a specific hotel or beach club. Access to the beach should preferably be free, although public access is provided at some beaches by charging a small and reasonable fee (no more than 30 US dollars).

The Blue beach flag program has been run since 1987 by a non-profitable organization, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), and now includes over 5,000 certified beaches and marinas across 48 countries.

Okay, now what about the other flags?

If you always forget the beach flag meaning, read the following guide and take a screenshot of the infographics.

The complete list of all beach flags

The main thing about beach flags is that you must take them seriously. The good thing is that the color coding is the same across the world, so there’s not too much to remember.

Red beach flags mean that you have surf and swimming conditions high enough to drive deadly rip currents (the currents that flow away from the shore). Anytime currents pull into the sea, the red flag appears on the beach.

You can watch the example of a strong tide current in this video:

The yellow beach flag is a moderate hazard. When beach administration finds rips aren’t pulling much into the sea, they drop a yellow flag.

Yellow beach flag, Valencia, Spain

The green beach flag is a minimal hazard, and the minimal hazard still means that there are some dangers out there. If the tide is dropping, regardless of whether the water is flat or the tide comes in—that is current, and it will drive you.

Photo by Lucas Pelucas

The purple beach flag means hazardous marine life, and they usually drop it for jellyfish or stingrays in the water. Both jellyfish and stingrays pose a hazard to walking. So, take care if you’re swimming in the water or even if you’re walking on the sand.

The quartered black and white beach flag indicates a waterfront area for surfboats, paddle boats, and other non-powered watercraft.

Lifeguards are watching you

The red and yellow beach flag means the lifeguards are watching the shore. Swimming is allowed in the area.

The yellow beach flag with a black circle indicates that the swimming area is not for surfers and people with other watercraft.

Can I swim if there is a purple flag on the beach? 

Yes, but at your own risk. There are many types of jellyfish, including some nasty ones (e.g., Box Jellyfish), and I’d probably talk to the lifeguard before swimming under purple flag conditions. 

What does a double red flag mean?

You cannot get in the water whenever there’s a double red flag. There may be an exception for surfers on some beaches when surfers are attached to the leash.

What if there is no flag on the beach?

The absence of flags doesn’t mean safe waters. The sea or the ocean is no joke, be reasonable with your choices.

Which country has the most Blue Flag beaches?

According to the FEE reports, Spain is the country with most blue flag beaches across the world. There are more than 600 blue flag beaches and over 100 blue flag marinas in Spain.

What color flag at the beach means sharks?

There is no specific beach flag for sharks; therefore, the double red flag will be set at the beach area. 

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