Coastal communities urged to become involved in ‘Big Beach Clean’

Embargoed until 12 noon Thursday 26th May 2016No repro Fee26-5-2016**Coastal Awards Recognise Ireland’s Best Beaches and Marinas**Picture shows Caoimhe Culhane (5) celebrating An Taisce’s Blue Flag Awards 2016 at Seapoint,Co Dublin.Pic:Naoise Culhane-no fee85 International Blue Flag and 56 National Green Coast Awards for IrelandToday, An Taisce announced the International Blue Flag Award and the National Green Coast Award recipients for the 2016 bathing season. A total of 141 awards were presented by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D, at an awards ceremony held on the Velvet Strand, Portmarnock in Fingal at 12 noon today.Speaking at the awards Minister Coveney noted that “In Ireland, we are particularly fortunate to have a varied and beautiful coastline with many pristine beaches that are open to the public to enjoy. However, we cannot rest on our laurels and must continue to make strident efforts to protect and improve our waters. This will ensure that we, and future generations, can continue to enjoy this wonderful resource.”Mr. Ian Diamond, Coastal Awards Manager at An Taisce’s Environmental Education Unit speaking at the awards said:“I would like on behalf of An Taisce to pay tribute to the Local Authorities and marina operators here today for all their efforts in ensuring that the sites being awarded for the 2016 bathing season have achieved the excellent standards required by the Blue Flag and Green Coast Awards”. The 79 Irish beaches and 6 marinas are awarded the prestigious Blue Flag Award for the 2016 bathing Season.The Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised eco-labels. The programme aims to raise environmental awareness and promote sound environmental practices and behaviours among beach and marina users.  The 79 Irish beaches and 6 marinas that achieved this accolade met a specific set of criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety and beach management. As a pre-requisite, the bathing water at Blue Flag beaches must meet the highest standards of bathing water quality. The overall Blue Flags in Ireland this year is down only one on 2015, whilst four of the beaches awarded in 2015 did not retain Blue Flag status, the Blue Flag will be raised for the first time at Ballymoney North Beach in Wexford and Brittas Bay North regains Blue Flag status lost last year. Fenit Marina in Kerry has also been awarded a Blue Flag this year whilst all of the marinas awarded last year have retained Blue Flag status for the coming season.An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland is responsible for the operation of the Blue Flag programme in Ireland on behalf of the Foundation of Environmental Education. Blue Flag Applications were not received for the following beaches that had been in receipt of the award in 2015: Redbarn (Cork), Garretstown (Cork), and Portrane (Fingal). These beaches did not meet the excellent water quality standard required for Blue Flag status. Ross Strand in Mayo was not awarded the Blue Flag due to there being less lifeguard cover than advised during in-season control visits. 56 Beaches receive the Green Coast Award for the 2016 Bathing SeasonThe Green Coast Awards were presented back in 2003 to four beaches in County Wexford.  Since then, the award has gone from strength to strength recognising beaches for their clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty. An important aspect of the Green Coast Awards is the involvement of Clean Coasts groups of which there are now 499 comprised of thousands of volunteers throughout the island. These volunteers participate in community clean-ups and coastal enhancement projects at their local beaches throughout the year.56 beaches in Ireland were awarded the Green Coast Award representing a decrease in 3 awards since 2015. Boatstrand in Waterford is being awarded for the Green Coast Award for the first time since 2010, whilst Red Strand in Cork has regained the award due in part to improved water quality. Having not met the excellent water quality standard required, Rocky Bay in Cork, Portrane in Fingal, Mayo’s White Strand and Cross in Louisburgh did not retain the award for the 2016 bathing season.Media contact: Ian DiamondTel: 01 4002229 / 085 7480874Pic:Naoise Culhane-no fee

People in Donegal are being urged to participate in this year's 'Big Beach Clean'.

The clean-up is taking place on the 16th to 18th of September and An Taisce is encouraging those taking part to register as soon as possible as free clean-up packs are limited.

If you don't have time to organise your own beach clean you also join one that is happening in your area.

Coastal Communities Manager with An Taisce is Sinead McCoy: