Mid and East Antrim has landed four prestigious accolades at the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful Beaches and Marinas Awards.
Carrickfergus Marina was awarded a Blue Flag and Ballygally, Brown’s Bay and Carnlough beaches all received a Seaside Award.
Beach and Marina Operators from across the country attended the awards for excellence in facilities, environmental management, environmental education, accessibility and water quality.
The internationally renowned Blue Flag award is certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and has 45 participating countries.
Beach and marina operators receiving a Blue Flag are demonstrating their commitment to protecting the coastal environment, excellent water quality, safety, and providing access for all. Fun educational activities are also available at these sites.
The Seaside Award is the national standard for beaches across the UK. This programme ensures visitors of a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed beach with the facilities provided being appropriate for the location of the beach.
The Blue Flag and Seaside Awards may only be flown if all the criteria are successfully met and maintained throughout the summer season.
The awards were presented on 30 May 2019, in time for the bathing season, which runs from 1 June until the 15 September each year. The awards event also provided an update on the work of the EU SWIMProject on bathing water quality monitoring.
Northern Ireland’s coastline has some iconic sights, and many of our award winning beaches include or are next to Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty with specially protected habitats and species forming a large part of the experience visitors enjoy.
The aim of these award programmes is to improve the connection between people and their surroundings by encouraging them to spend more time in and learn more about their coastal environment. Most award winning beaches and marinas provide information points to showcase the best of Northern Ireland’s wildlife and provide visitors with information on how they can enjoy these natural wonders without disturbing or damaging them.
Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: “For your health, for good old fashioned ‘screen free’ fun and for helping us realise the wonder of our natural environment, it is hard to beat a visit to our coast or lough shores.
“Behind every enjoyable experience is a small team of committed beach and marina operators who toil year round to keep these places in pristine condition. These awards are one way of recognising their ongoing dedication and of course advertising the best very places to take a holiday.”
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is also one of the partners of the EU SWIM Project (System for Bathing Water Quality Monitoring). It is a cross-border research project funded by the INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, which is in the final stages of developing a system for live bathing water monitoring.
The EU SWIM Project combines the expertise of lead partner University College Dublin and partners, Agri-Food Bioscience Institute and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.
The development of a bathing water quality prediction model uses the data collected by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, (DAERA) Marine and Fisheries Division and directly links into software to support the collection of data and delivery of information to the public.
Ian Humphreys added: “The addition of the EU SWIM bathing water quality app will complement the Beach and Marina awards by ensuring the public are informed of the water quality status at the nine beaches being monitored across Northern Ireland and the Republic.
“The app that is being developed will provide peace of mind to bathers in the future that the water is of sufficient quality before they visit the beach. The app will be refined during the 2019 season. ”
DAERA currently monitors 26 identified bathing water sites across Northern Ireland on a weekly basis during the bathing season and is also contributing to the EU SWIM Project.
David Small Deputy Secretary (Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group) said: “I am delighted that so many of Northern Ireland’s beaches have received the coveted Blue Flag, Seaside and Green Coast Awards.
“These awards and the recognition that our first-class marinas have received, are testament to the hard work and dedication of those who manage our beaches and marinas.
“These outstanding awards let people around the world know that Northern Ireland is not only open for business but that our beaches, marinas and coastline are great destinations; clean, healthy and safe to enjoy,and supporting our vision of a living, working, active landscape valued by everyone.”
Information on all the award winning beaches and marinas can be found at www.beachni.com or by picking up an award winning beaches and marinas leaflet from your nearest Tourist Information Centre.