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Innovation wins French beaches, nature sites blue flag environment label

Information sign indicating environmental measures in place at a beach with the Pavillon Bleu label.
Information sign indicating environmental measures in place at a beach with the Pavillon Bleu label. © Pavillon Bleu

Hundreds of beaches and marinas across France have been attributed the Pavillon Bleu label – the blue flag – for meeting environmental criteria such as water quality, protection of biodiversity and accessibility. Investing in innovative ideas, these sites aim to meet the United Nations climate goals.


The Pavillon Bleu announced the winners of the 2020 edition on Tuesday, designating 401 beaches and 106 marinas across France all of which have put in place permanent measures towards sustainable development goals.

In this year's 35th edition, the label was given to 26 new coastal and inland sites, as can be seen on the interactive map (yellow for beaches, blue for marinas).

The large southern region of Occitanie comes out on top with 109 beaches and 19 ports selected.

Created by the non-profit organisation Teragir in 1985, the Pavillon Bleu (the Blue Flag) exists in 46 countries and has become a label of confidence for tourism operators.

Its mission is to raise awareness among diverse members of the community, from teachers, businesses, to institutions and citizens, in order to reach the 17 sustainable development goals defined by the United Nations at the Paris climate summit in 2015.

The criteria includes water quality for swimming, the management of water and waste at the site, the cleanliness of beaches and accessibility for handicapped or less mobile visitors.

In particular, the rating takes into consideration the prevention of green seaweed, reforestation efforts, and information available on local flora and fauna.

The label given to ports takes into account the possibility to recycle used water and dispose of waste adequately.

Urgent need to readjust lifestyle

The announcement of the rating comes as French beaches begin reopening cautiously following the second phase of easing Covid-19 lockdown on 2 June.

Due to the border closures outside Schengen in place until early July, and doubt over quarantine measures in many countries, many French families are planning to spend their summer vacations closer to home.

Pavillon Bleu president Rodolphe Dugon says the Covid-19 crisis has brought to the fore the urgent need to change our lifestyles to be more respectful towards each other and the environment.

"We have collectively until 2030 to reach the objectives (set by the UN), which deal with climate change, biodiversity, poverty and equality. In the north, as in the south, our destinies are linked. Each evolution must come not at the expense of one another, but for the benefit of all living things."

At the Port of Cap d'Agde in the southern Occitanie region, artificial reefs, printed in 3D have been implanted to restore the area's biodiversity.

Design for artificial reefs printed in 3D for the Port of Cap d'Agde, southern France. May 2019
Design for artificial reefs printed in 3D for the Port of Cap d'Agde, southern France. May 2019 © Seaboost / Ville d'Agde

The 32 reefs weighing 1,4 tonnes each are made of PH neutral cement are placed 300 metres away from the shore, creating a protected area for swimmers and fish alike.

They replace the former fish nurseries made of old tires chained to cement blocks, which tended to rust or float away.

In Corsica, a high-tech solution in place at the Trottel beach in Ajaccio assists blind or partially-sighted visitors since 2013.

Thanks to an electronic bracelet connected to the buoys, users are alerted to the edges of the designated swimming area.

An assistant is also on hand to help handicapped visitors who wish to swim using the wheelchair access.

At the port of Saint-Raphaël, in the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Côté d’Azur region, a pilot programme called Helio is underway, to transform saltwater into drinking water, using solar energy.

Designed by French company Marine-Tech, solar panels catch the sun's rays, as water is pumped into a sphere which heats up to 100 degrees with the help of a reflective panel. The high temperature kills bacteria, and the fresh water falls into the base of the sphere. Between 10 and 20 litres are produced each day.

Residents in the Landes, in the southwestern Nouvelle-Aquitaine region can recycle their Christmas trees, which are transformed by local services into a form of matting, used to prevent erosion of the coastal dunes during winter, areas considered essential for the area's biodiversity.

In order to educate the public about marine preservation and the impact of waste, the international branch of Pavillon Bleu, the Blue Flag programme is set to organise a massive beach clean up throughout the Mediterranean region, in the second week of July.

Some 600,000 tonnes of waste ends up on the coast each year.


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