This blog was updated on January 30, 2018.

We’re often asked how we decide which beaches and marinas get the Blue Flag award. The answer is, we don’t—a jury decides.

Port Stanley Beach Blue Flag Communities apply for the Blue Flag award on a yearly basis, even if they’ve already achieved Blue Flag designation. That way you can be confident every beach or marina flying the Blue Flag meets the same high standards from year to year.

After we vet all of the applications, the final decision is made by an independent group of volunteers: the Blue Flag jury. The jury is made up of experts in the four Blue Flag criteria categories: environmental education, water quality, environmental management, and safety & services. This year, 11 expert jurors met in late January to review the 2018 Blue Flag applicants.

The Blue Flag jury meeting – a behind the scenes look

The jury meeting begins with an overview of the previous year’s highlights, and continues with a review of each individual application. With several beach clean-ups and workshops, 2017 was full of highlights to share. During the review, each expert has an opportunity to point out best practices or issues of concern. At the end of the meeting, the jurors sign a declaration stating the number of beaches and marinas they have found to be in full compliance with the Blue Flag criteria.

The main task of the jury is to examine applications and ensure that they comply with the Blue Flag criteria. The jury confirms that each candidate has provided all of the required information and that there is enough documentation for a thorough review. Each submission must include: the previous season’s water quality results; examples of interpretative signage, or educational materials; copies of environmental management plans and policies; summaries of emergency response plans; and other items outlined in the annual Blue Flag application. As the first line of quality-control, the jury can reject candidates that don’t have all of the necessary information, or can ask a candidate to provide additional documentation.

Next steps after the jury meeting

After the national jury meeting, we forward the successful applications to the international Blue Flag jury, which meets in April. The international jury consists of representatives from the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and a number of other well-known international bodies including: the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the International Lifesaving Federation (ILS) and the European Union.

After being vetted twice by two juries of independent experts, you can trust that Canadian Blue Flag beaches and marinas are some of the best in the world. We will be announcing this year’s winners in May, so stay tuned for the announcement! You can also sign up for our water e-newsletter so you can be the first to know about which Canadian beaches and marinas received the Blue Flag this year.