THE tourist season gets off to a gloomy start with a report from the European Commission that five beaches in the Balearics are unfit for bathing. Four of the beaches are in Majorca (three in Pollensa and one in Cala d'Or) and the fifth in Minorca (Cala Padera in Es Castell).
The news comes at a particularly bad time for Pollensa, where red tape has led to delays in the beach services (see story below).
Last year, Pollensa won two coveted blue flags for its beaches at Cala Molins and Cala Barques but Formentor lost its blue flag because of work which was in progress when the beach was inspected.
The EC report said that there were about 30 beaches and rivers not suitable for bathing from among 1'779 bathing areas on the coast and 171 inland.
The quality of the bathing areas was quite good and stable in the coastal areas compared to the previous years, with a high degree of acceptation, from the point of view of the set obligatory standards and the more restrictive guidelines.
The average quality of the Spanish coastal resorts, although it has slipped down slightly in the obligatory criteria, was similar to last season.
Most of the beaches, 97.6 percent, complied with the imperative values, while 88.6 percent had the strict minimums needed to be described as good quality. Other areas where beaches were classified as not suitable for bathing were Galicia (four beaches and the River Tera at Porteareas), Andalucia (12, most of them in Malaga and Granada), the Canary Islands (seven) and the Basque Country (one).
No beaches in the regions of Asturias, Cantabria and Catalonia were classified as not suitable for bathing.
The report said that there had been a marked improvement of the average quality of inland bathing areas, although overall figures are still low.
Spain was also criticised for not analysing sufficient samples in some areas, despite the experience it has in making systematic studies of its coastal waters.
In November last year, the European Union court in Luxemburg fined Spain more than 600'000 euros for failing to carry out EU directives regarding fresh water bathing areas.
Last year, the Balearics were awarded 68 blue flags for beaches and marinas, two more than in 2002. The announcement of this year's blue flags has yet to be made.
The coveted blue flags are awarded on an annual basis by the Europea Foundation of Environmental Education, and they recognise cleanliness, safety and environmental management.
Last year's flags went to 55 beaches (two more than the previous year) and 13 marinas.
Calvia was the municipality with most flags - Peguera Torà, Peguera Romana, Son Maties, Es Carregador, Palmira, Magalluf and Palma Nova.
Palma had the best yacht clubs - Club de Mar, Cala Nova, Sant Antoni de la Platja, Marina Port de Mallorca and the Real Club Nautico.