Blue Flag Beaches in the Maltese Islands
The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) has taken the role of Beach Management following two beach replenishment projects conducted by the Authority; namely St George’s Bay and Bugibba Perched Beach. Following the success of these two beaches, the MTA widened its beach management operations to other coastal stretches mainly: Golden Bay, Mellieha Bay, Qawra Point and Font Ghadir rocky coast.
The beaches managed by MTA strive to meet EU and international standards in safety, bathing waterquality, services and environmental awareness. The sustainable management approach, abiding to the international Blue Flag Programme Criteria resulted in the achievement of international and national Quality Awards. Awards include the Blue Flag (BF) that requires applying 100% of the BF criteria and the Beach of Quality (BOQ) that requires over 70% of the same criteria. Through sustainable beach management operations locals and tourists can benefit from the good use of the coast while respecting the natural environment.
Beach Management awards have to be applied for every year. It is the aim of the Authority to retain the current awards and upgrade them in quality and quantity. The BF Programme is operated by FEE (Federation of Environmental Education) represented in Malta by Nature Trust. Malta joined the BF Programme in 2006 with SGB awarded BF in 2007 and BPB in 2009. Awards achieved for 2012 included:
1. St. Georges Bay (SGB) - Blue Flag
2. Bugibba Perched Beach (BPB) - Blue Flag
3. Mellieha Bay (MB) - Blue Flag
4. Qawra Point - Blue Flag
5. Ramla l-Hamra (Gozo)- Blue Flag
6. Ghajn Tuffieha - Blue Flag
7. Golden Bay (GB) - Beach of Quality
8. Fond Ghadir - Beach of Quality
9. Paradise Bay Hotel Resort - Beach of Quality
The BF Programme helps in highlighting the beach product - a major element of Maltese tourism - to international recognition. It helps to encourage achieving higher results in water quality and the overall awareness of the coastal ecosystem.
Beach Management Operations
MTA beaches are operated eight hours a day seven days a week between mid June and September.
All beaches are manned during the above periods by:
1. Qualified lifeguards and first aid personnel
2. experienced beach supervisors
3. on-site beach cleaners (by Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs)
All beaches are furnished with:
1. Information and ecology boards
2. Shaded lifeguard platform
3. Clinic room
4. Various walkways
5. Flag pole and safety flag system
6. Lifeguard emergency equipment
7. Notice boards with Code of Conduct and activities
8. Waste separation rubbish bins and waste collection
9. Bridges / Ladders of various forms and sizes
10. Availability of showers
11. Beach Libraries
12. Separate Gents / Ladies / Disabled users WC cabinets
13. Swim zone perimeters (by Transport Malta)
14. Beach ashtrays and portable hand ashtrays for “Butts Off Sand’ campaign
15. Sand wheelchairs for disabled users at Mellieha Bay, St Georges Bay (SGB) and Golden Bay
16. Safety swimmers pull rope at Golden Bay (by Gaia Foundation)
Bathing Water Quality Physico-chemical water monitoring and testing of the bathing water quality was carried out by Ecoserv Ltd, while micro-biological monitoring and testing of all beaches were carried out by the Health Department (of the Ministry of Health). During 2011 bathing water quality results exceeded every record with “Excellent” results every week. Malta now stands as one of the top countries of the EU for excellent bathing water quality.
Sand sifting by machinery is done once weekly, sometimes twice in peak summer. A total of 85 sand
sifting operations on the 4 sandy beaches managed by MTA took place in 2011. These were performed in the early hours of the mornings. During 2011 the sand sifter was accompanied by a beach supervisor to ensure optimum results. Manual sand raking is done daily by the beach maintenance team.
Beach supervisors, mostly 2nd year university students, are interviewed and recruited every year to supervise all beach operations and see that beach users abide by the Code of Conduct for their own benefit and the benefit of the beach environment. Prior to the start of the season, beach staff attends an inhouse seminar with talks from Nature Trust, the Health Authorities, Beach management consultants and experienced MTA staff. All supervisors are given a uniform, identification tag, sun cream and a cap while all inexperienced entrants are, for some weeks, placed with experienced supervisors before being allowed to beach supervise by themselves.
The beaches are divided into 2 regions – (1) SGB, FG, QP, BPB and (2) MB and GS with each region being assigned to a senior Beach Supervisor (with a minimum 2 years previous experience). Senior Beach Supervisors report to the Beach Unit at MTA’s Head Office.
Beach Supervisors are furnished with an instructions file on basic operations, emergency contacts and contact numbers, By-laws where applicable, as well as the more frequently asked about situations regarding top-less bathing, pets, gazebos and tents on shorefront. Moreover, at Ghadira Bay supervisors are equipped with two way radios and a binocular.
Beach cleaning is done by staff from the Cleansing Services Department (CSD) of the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs (MRRA). Daily tasks include: the removal of dead plants (Posedonia Oceanica) and other flotsam that is beached on a daily basis; raking of the sand early in the morning; hand picking of litter from sand, rocky areas and sand dunes; emptying of waste bins, emptying of separated waste and the general upkeep of the coast.
During the winter months all beach furniture is collected, maintained and stored by the Tourism Directorate Workshop of the Parliamentary Secretariat for the Tourism, Culture and the Environment (PSTCE). The team also performs minor presummer interventions that follow winter storms and rough sea currents. However this maintenance is often required also throughout the summer months due to
various reasons that crop up continuously, in particular during the peak months. A team from MRRA also assists in similar interventions on certain beaches.
Involvement of other entities
Beach management involves the cooperation of various other entities whose input is crucial. These include Mellieha Local Council, Lands Department, Transport Malta and the enforcement unit of the MTA.
The Blue Flag Programme necessitates the organisation of a number of Environmental Educational Activities on every beach. The MTA works beyond the required criteria and organises a number
of environmental activities with experts who can offer professional guidance.
Marine Biologists, Divers, Archaeologists, professional trekkers, photographers, ceramists, lecturers and
Astronomers, all offer assistance for good results every time.
Hundreds of children from Malta’s summer schools, scores of adults through mailing lists together with physically or mentally impaired people are involved in MTA Blue Flag activities every year.
The Theme for 2011 was Love your Beach – Do not Litter.
Beach Management and Blue Flag Awards help in giving our beaches a professional outlook on an international level standard. It can be effectively used as a tool in the marketing of Malta as a holiday destination where beaches, together with the accommodation sector and the ancillary services, form the major part of the overall product. The population is an integral part of the Maltese touristic product and needs to be kept informed and educated in keeping our beaches in as pristine a condition as possible.
To download the blue flag information leaflet click here.
Blue Flag Environmental Educational Activities Report 2012
Click here for Blue Flag activity report 2011.
Click here for Salini and St. Paul's Bay walk Report.
Click here for Xemxija and St. Paul's Bay walk Report
Senior Executive, Product Planning Directorate
Ms Pauline Dingli