MADRID – Each year, the environmental group Ecologistas en Acción hands out Black Flags to beaches and coastal areas that, in their view, fail to meet environmental and sustainability standards. Unlike the Blue Flag, a Black Flag is a negative acknowledgment.
Following another inspection of the more than 8,000 kilometers of Spanish coasts, the confederation of over 300 Spanish environmental groups has presented the Black Flags 2023 report. A total of 48 Black Flags are awarded: two per province and/or autonomous city, one flag for pollution and another for poor environmental management of the coast.
- Huelva: La Antilla Beach (Urbanization) and Ría de Huelva (Leaks) Cádiz: Tarifa (urban projects) and Vejer (pollution)
- Málaga: Coastal Path and light pollution in Málaga Granada: La Herradura Beach (urban development) and Pozuelo Beach (effects on biodiversity)
- Almería: Algarrobico (urban development) and Roquetas (marine debris).
- Musel (Regasificadora) and Bañugues Beach (discharges)
- Bajo Asón (sanitation deficiencies) and Liencres (public parking occupation)
- Tarragona. Ebro Delta (poor water management) and La Savinosa (due to urbanization)
- Barcelona. Vallcarca Beach (urbanization) and Badalona (pollution)
- Girona. Beaches of Begur (urban development) and Golfo de Roses (impact on biodiversity)
- Monte Hacho (Impact on biodiversity) and North Bay (discharges and pollution opposite the desalination plant).
- Vizcaya. Urdaibai (urban development) and Barbadun (pollution).
- Guipúzcoa. La Concha Bay (impact on biodiversity) and Mutriku (due to port expansion).
- Pontevedra. A Calzoa (dog beach with impact on biodiversity) and ENCE factory in Pontevedra for occupying public domain.
- A Coruña. San Finx mine (discharges) and Touro mine (discharges).
- Lugo. Areaoura Beach (urban development) and San Cibrao (pollution).
Black flag for poor management due to the proliferation of jet skis and for pollution from the nautical parties of Colònia de Sant Jordi.
- Tenerife. Fuencaliente, La Palma (urban development) and Médano (discharges)
- Las Palmas. La Francesa (impact on biodiversity) and Corralejo (port expansion).
Trápana (urban development) and Bay of Melilla (due to fecal discharges)
- Alicante. Cala Mosca (Orihuela, due to urban development) and Xabia (discharges)
- Valencia. Platja de l´Arbre del Gos (urban development) and beaches of Valencia (discharges and lack of transparency)
- Castellón. Fortí Beach (urban development) and Surrach Beach (waste).
Mar Menor (effects on biodiversity) Portman and Sierra Minera (due to discharges and pollution).
More on the Black Flag
These assessments by Ecologistas en Acción are aimed at various factors such as water quality, area management, accessibility, and the influence of urban and industrial activities on the environment. A ‘black flag’ means that the respective area has significant environmental problems that are not being adequately addressed.
The goal is also to inform public opinion about the environmental problems on the Spanish coast. Moreover, the idea is that governments and other stakeholders will be motivated to make improvements.
The positive counterpart of the Black Flag is the Blue Flag. This is awarded annually to beaches and marinas that are safe and clean. The program is managed by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), an international non-profit organization.
To receive a Blue Flag, beaches and marinas must meet a series of strict environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria. These include factors such as water quality, availability of sanitary facilities, good waste management practices, safety measures, and the presence of an environmental management plan.
Despite the strict criteria, there have been some concerns raised about the objectivity of the Blue Flag award. Local or national organizations responsible for awarding the Blue Flags in their own country could potentially be influenced by local politics or business interests.
In addition, critics point out that the criteria weigh more heavily on physical and safety aspects than on broader ecological issues, meaning a Blue Flag might not tell the full story about the ecological health of a beach or marina.