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By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last week in Copenhagen, Denmark, the international jury of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) awarded six of Brazil’s beaches and three of its marinas the coveted Blue Flag award for 2016/2017. The internationally recognized Blue Flag award is given yearly to beaches and marinas that have passed stringent tests for sustainability, quality and management.

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro
Prainha beach, in Grumari, RJ, was awarded the Blue Flag, for sustainability and quality, photo by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

The Brazilian honorees this year include three first-time winners: Ponta de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe beach in Salvador, Bahia; Praia Grande in Governador Celso Ramos, Santa Catarina; and Iate Clube de Santa Catarina, in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina.

They now join six other beaches and marinas in Brazil who already currently hold the honor of flying the prestigious blue flag, and will continue to do so for another year. These include Praia de Palmas, in Governador Celso Ramos, Santa Catarina; Praia da Lagoa do Peri, in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina; Praia do Tombo in Guarujá, São Paulo; and Marinas Nacionais, in Guarujá, São Paulo.

Locally, in Rio de Janeiro, two locations won the Blue Flag distinction, Prainha beach in Grumari, and Marina Costabella, in Angra dos Reis.

Prainha (Little Beach), long considered one of the best surfing spots in Rio, is a secluded half-moon-shaped beach, bordered on each side by lush green hills and high rocky cliffs. It can be reached by car or by the always colorful surf bus, which leaves for Prainha several times a day, starting from Largo do Machado and passing through the beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon.

“I came to Prainha to get away from the crowds at Copacabana and Ipanema,” said Norwegian tourist Jesper Eriksen to The Rio Times on a recent visit. “The waves are very strong, but otherwise the beach is very tranquil and calm compared to the city.”

Brazil, Brazil News, Rio de Janeiro
Members of this year’s FEE international jury with the prestigious Blue Flag, given to nine Brazilian sites this year, photo courtesy of FEE.

Since it opened in 2007, Marina Costabella, in Angra dos Reis, has always made sustainability a top priority. The marina only uses zero CO2 emission equipment, hosts numerous environmental clinics and activities, and has even established a neighboring mangrove ecological reserve.

Until a couple of years ago, it held the impressive distinction of being the only marina in all of South America with a Blue Flag; although, Brazil can still lay claim to having the only marinas in South America with that honor, now numbering three, with Marinas Nacionais and Iate Clube de Santa Catarina, joining Costabella.

Among the global traveling community, the Blue Flag beach award is widely considered the gold standard for beaches and marinas, equivalent to a Michelin star in the food industry. FEE’s international jury accepts submissions from around the world and studies each location on the basis of 34 different criteria spread across four categories.

The four categories are Environmental Education and Information, which include adequate maps and information displays, Water Quality, including, not surprisingly, an absence of industrial, wastewater or sewage-related discharges, Environmental Management, such as the administration of keeping the beach and facilities clean, and finally, Safety and Services, such as lifeguards and security.

The award process is carried out every year and beaches can lose or gain their Blue Flag status year to year.

Currently, there are some four thousand beaches and marinas around the world that have been awarded the Blue Flag. For 2016, the country with the most Blue Flags is Spain with 692 Blue Flag awarded sites.

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