Blue Flag status for Greek beaches.
A total of 387 Blue Flags have been awarded to Greek beaches for 2011, a significant drop on last year's figure of 412 beaches. This still leaves Greece second in the international league table of 41 countries for the number of safe, clean beaches around its shores.
The International Commission has awarded Blue Flag status to a total of 3,012 beaches this year and to 638 marinas worldwide.
The Blue Flag is an international symbol of quality and probably the best-known environmental symbol in the world.
Blue Flag beaches must meet a total of 32 criteria relating to cleanliness, organization, information and visitor safety as well as helping protect the coastal environment and coastal areas.
The quality of bathing water is confirmed through random checks and microbiological analysis. Inspectors not only check for industrial and municipal discharge but even make sure that litter bins are emptied frequently and that beaches are cleared of litter and cigarette ends.
Trained lifeguards must also be on duty and provision made for people with disabilities. Greek island holiday regions with the most Blue Flag beaches in 2011 are West Crete with 44 beaches, Corfu with 33 and Rhodes with 32 while, on the mainland, Halkidiki notches up an impressive 30 beaches.
Other popular Greek holiday islands to get Blue Flag status for their holiday beaches are Lesvos with 12, Kefalonia with 11 and Zante with 7 and many others with single figures.
Despite this year's awards Greece has shown a steady decline in the number of beaches awarded Blue Flag status since a peak of 430 beaches in 2008.
In 2009 the number dropped to 425 and it dropped again in 2010 to 421. 2011 has seen another 34 Greek island beaches lost from the Blue Flag list.