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Spain: Flags on beaches

Last modified: 2018-10-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: beach |
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Sea bathing condition flags

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Sea bathing condition flags - Images by Santiago Dotor, 3 September 1999

Most Spanish beaches of a relevant size or attendance display colored flags as a way to state sea weather conditions. The flag is usually displayed alone on a pole, but it has been seen it beside a Spanish flag 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.

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.
Black: The beach is closed due to the state of sea and sand.
There could be serious risk to health.
[Play it Safe, 18 July 2006]

Santiago Dotor & Ivan Sache, 24 February 2018


Lifeguard not on duty flag

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Orange flag - Image by Klaus-Michael Schneider, 14 June 2009

The "Lifeguard not on duty" orange flag is specific to Balearic Islands.

Klaus-Michael Schneider & Ivan Sache, 24 February 2018


Jellyfish warning flags

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

The presence of jellyfish in the waters near beaches is signaled by specific flags. First reported in Catalonia in June 2006, the use of such flags quickly spread to other regions. The flags were officially prescribed in the Valencian Community in August 2006 (report) and in the Balearic Islands on 26 May 2009.

The usual jellyfish flag is white with two "cyan magenta" jellies (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo). The same design is also used with black jellies on a yellow background (photo) and white jellies on a red background (photo). The flag used on Galician beaches was reported as "yellow with a jellyfish" (Atlántico Diario, 24 June 2009).
In the Canary Islands, jellyfishes are signaled by a red triangular flag (photo, photo) with two black jellies placed over a yellow lozenge, beneath, the writing "AGUAVIVAS", the whole surrounded by a white circle (La Opinión de Tenerife, 7 August 2008).

Ivan Sache, 26 June 2009


Storm signals

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Storm signal flag - Image by Eugene Ipavec, 12 December 2008

Storm signal flags are prescribed by Reglamento de señales visuales de temporal y puerto, adopted in 1948 and updated in 1971.
Black flags, in size 1.50 x 1.90 m, shall be used as follows:
- a single flag: Wind is veering to the right (clockwise);
- two flags, one above the other: Wind is veering to the left (counter-clockwise).

Aingeru Astui Zarraga & Jan Mertens, 12 March 2007


Black flags awarded by Ecologistas en Acción

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Black flags - Image by Santiago Dotor, 3 September 1999

Black flags (photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo, photo), rarely hoisted officially, are mostly "awarded" by the Ecologistas en Acción confederation on the beaches listed on the "Black flag" annual report. Started in 1999, the action aimed to "a public exposure of beaches and seashores that experience diverse contamination, urbanistic aggression or any other circumstances causing a loss of environmental quality of the shore".
The 2017 report lists, with references, 48 beaches and sites, 24 for "contamination", including large ares, 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 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