Researchers at the University of the Balearic Islands and the University of Girona have concluded that the awarding of a Blue Flag does not in itself contribute to the improvement of beaches.
The study of Blue Flags in the Balearics between 1987 and 2018 says that in no instance have Blue Flags served to improve, restore or reverse beach degradation. The researchers considered twenty-one beaches awarded the Blue Flag over this period (ten in Mallorca, five in both Minorca and Ibiza, and one in Formentera). Using geo-environmental variables for their analyses, they state that "there are no improvements linked to the Blue Flag". "Therefore, we must rethink the usefulness of this mark or put into practice new environmental accreditation criteria which are adapted to the complexities and particularities of beaches, without thinking of them as merely a solarium."
The researchers continue: "Many of the measures applied in the Balearic Islands for recovery of dunes systems must be related to public policies and not linked to the Blue Flag, which does not contemplate these criteria either in summer or the rest of the year."
"The Blue Flag is geared towards high levels of use associated with the provision of services, including recreational services. It does not make any positive contribution in geo-environmental terms and nor does it prioritise knowledge of the natural conditions of the beaches. Many municipalities have already decided to do without the blue flags and have opted for alternatives, such as ISO certifications. If a town hall reduces the number of beaches with a Blue Flag, this does not mean - and far from it - a decrease in their quality.
"Blue Flags contributed to the improvement of beach hygiene in the '80s and '90s, but they do not now offer any link with beach improvement and conservation."
The Blue Flag, the study accepts, is "an easy label" for beachgoers to understand. This is "thanks to a media campaign that offers a certain idea of commitment from a particular administration". "But the results do not improve the state of the beaches. What is improved are the services. Even municipalities that have opted for other certifications have not given the Blue Flags up, as they mean more promotion and visibility."