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Spain: Flags on beaches

Last modified: 2018-04-04 by ivan sache
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Bathing condition flags

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Bathing condition flags used on Spanish beaches, - Images by Santiago Dotor, 3 September 1999

Flags are used on Spanish beaches as a way to state sea weather conditions. Most Spanish beaches of a relevant size/attendance display flags which can be either green, indicating safe bathing sea condition, yellow, indicating bathing with caution, or red, indicating bathing is prohibited or very dangerous. The flag is usually displayed alone on a pole, but at least in Alicante I have also seen it beside a Spanish flag (without coat-of-arms) flown from twin halyards from a pole with crossbar.
The flag is changed daily and often even more frequently, as weather conditions change. This is normally managed by Red Cross or Civil Protection volunteers. The flags are usually around 1.0 m x 1.5 m but I guess there is no official size and other sizes are frequent. Normally there is a flagpole every 500-700 m along the beach, so that the flag is clearly visible from any point in the beach and nearby bathing areas.

Santiago Dotor, 3 September 1999

Here is a more detailed of the meaning of the colored flags.
Green - Allowed swimming.
A green flag on the beach is an all-clear sign, indicating that it is safe to swim. Even when the flag is green, though, exercise caution in the ocean, listen to lifeguard warnings and keep a close eye on children.
Yellow - Caution.
A yellow flag indicates potentially high surf or dangerous currents and undertows, and means that swimmers should exercise extreme caution. If there is a yellow flag, swim only near lifeguards and heed all their warnings.
Red - Banned from the water. The most serious of all beach warning flags, red flags warn swimmers of serious hazards and that the water is closed to swimming, as conditions are too dangerous for even the strongest swimmers.
[Play it Safe, 18 July 2006]

Ivan Sache, 24 February 2018

Black flag


Black flag - Image by Ivan Sache, 24 February 2018

A black flag, rarely used, means that the beach is closed due to the state of sea and sand and that there could be serious risk to health.
Black flags seen on beaches (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo) are mostly "awarded" by the Ecologistas en Acción confederation to the beaches listed on the "Black flag" annual report (annual report 2017). Started in 1999, the action aimed to "a public exposure of beaches and seashores that experience diverse contaminations, urbanistic aggressions or any other circumastnaces causing a loss of environmental quality of the shore".
The 2017 report lists, with references, 48 beaches and sites, 24 for "contamination", including large areas, such as the seashore of Gran Canaria and the whole island of Tenerife, river Llobregat and the estuary of Ebro, and another 24 for "inappropriate management", including also large areas, such as, again, the whole island of Tenerife, the delta of Llobregat, the port of Bilbao, the Albufera Natural Park and the Mar Menor (Murcia).

Ivan Sache, 24 February 2018

Jellyfish warning flags

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Jellyfish warning flags, Catalonia - Images by Ivan Sache, 26 June 2009

Starting 1 July 2006, the presence of jellyfish in the waters near beaches in Catalonia beaches is signaled by a specific flag. The flag, white with two jellyfish, is flown along with a yellow (bathing dangerous) or red (bathing forbidden) flag.
[RedAragon, 17 June 2006; El Periódico, 21 August 2007]

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Jellyfish warning flags, Balearic Islands - Images by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 3 November 2017

The use of such flags subsequently spread to other regions, such as the Valencian Community (officially prescribed, August 2006; La Driza, 6 August 2006), Andalucia (Diario Sur, 11 July 2007) and the Balearic Islands (officially prescribed on 26 May 2009), and Galicia.
The flag, primarily white with two cyan magenta jeelyfishes, is also sold in different colours (red with white jellyfishes; yellow with with black jellyfishes).

In the Canary Islands, the warning flag (photo, 20 February 2008), is a red pennant with a white disc charged with a yellow lozenge encompassing two black jellyfishes; beneath, the writing "AGUAVIVAS" (jellyfishes).

Ivan Sache, 26 June 2009

Main station flag


Main station flag flag - Image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 3 November 2017

The flag hoisted over the main station on a beach is white with a red cross througout.

Klaus-Michael Schneider, 3 November 2017


The list of the beaches that were awarded the Ecoplayas flag was unveiled during the 9th Beaches' Congress and Exhibition, organized in El Puerto on 3-5 October 2007 by Ategrus (Asociación Técnica para la Gestión de Residuos, Aseo Urbano y Medio Ambiente - Technical Association for the Management of Waste, Urban and Environment Cleanliness").
The Ecoplayas flag (photo, photos), divided by a rainbow emerging from the upper left corner and ending in the bottom of the flag, but not in the upper right corner, shows the "Ategrus" logotype. The Ecoplayas logotype is placed in upper right corner, while the year, here 2007, is placed in the center of the bottom part of the flag.
[El Diario Bahía de Cádiz]

Ivan Sache, 8 October 2007