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Dog fouling blamed for Bertra Blue Flag loss


REDOUBLING EFFORTS Martin Keating of Mayo County Council wants to see blue flags returning to Bertra and Old Head.

Mayo awarded eleven Blue Flags but Bertra loses out

Anton McNulty

Dog fouling has been cited as one of the main reasons for the failure of one of Mayo’s most popular beaches losing its prestigious Blue Flag status.
An Taisce announced that eleven beaches across Mayo were awarded the highly recognised Blue Flag accolade and six beaches were awarded the Green Coast Award for 2021. The Blue Flag is an international award that recognises beach excellence and water quality. 
There was mixed reaction to the news after that Golden Strand beach in Dugort, Achill Island, regained its Blue Flag status for the first time since 2018 while Bertra Beach, located near Murrisk outside Westport, lost its flag.
Bathing-water quality was reduced from ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ at Bertra after testing last summer by the EPA.
Martin Keating, Head of Environment at Mayo County Council, expressed disappointment at the failure of Bertra to regain the flags. He said he felt dog fouling on the beach could be a contributing factor.
“We are delighted to have regained the Blue Flag on Golden Strand beach in Achill, but somewhat disappointed that despite our best efforts we have fallen marginally short of meeting the required standard for Blue Flag on Bertra and Old Head. 
“We will redouble our effort over the coming bathing season and would ask beach users to assist us by eliminating dog fouling on these beaches, as it has been identified as a potential source of impact on the water quality,” Mr Keating said.

Old Head
Old Head beach outside Louisburgh is one of the most popular beaches in the county and has failed to regain its Blue Flag, which it lost in 2013 due to the bathing water quality.
Westport councillor Christy Hyland expressed disappointment that Bertra and Old Head failed to reach the standard required for Blue Flags.
“It has been seven years since Old Head lost its Blue Flag, and serious questions have to be asked and questions answered as to why the water quality continues to meet the necessary standard. Old Head is one of the most popular beaches in the county and we have to know why the water quality is not up to standard.
“There is more to it than dog fouling and serious questions have to be asked,” he told The Mayo News.
There are now five Blue Flag beaches in Achill after the Golden Strand beach in Dugort regained its status after two years. The news was welcomed by Achill councillor Paul McNamara, but he called on Mayo County Council to ensure that all the Blue Flag beaches have lifeguards on duty this summer.
“It is great news that the Golden Strand has retained its Blue Flag, which is a boost for Achill, with another busy summer expected. I feel that Mayo County Council could do a lot more to help tourism in the area and start by providing lifeguards on all the Blue Flag beaches. There was no lifeguard on Dooega beach last year. With large numbers of visitors expected again this year there should be an increased presence of lifeguards on our Blue Flag beaches,” he said.

Eleven beaches
The eleven Blue Flags awarded to Mayo is the third highest number in the country behind Kerry and Donegal, who were both awarded 12 each. The eleven Mayo beaches to be awarded  Blue Flags are: Carrowmore, Clare Island, Dooega, Elly Bay, Keel, Keem, Mullahgroe, Mulranny, Ross Killala, Silver Strand Dugort and Golden Strand.
Mayo was also awarded six Green Coast Awards. These are given to beaches that have excellent water quality but may be less developed and less populated than Blue Flag beaches.  The Mayo beaches included in the Green Coast Awards are Tranaun Beach on Inishturk Island, Termon Beach, Srah Beach, Cross Beach in Belmullet, Portacloy Beach and Rinroe Beach.