Tougher testing procedures are being blamed for the net loss of 13 Blue Flag awards for Ireland’s beaches this year.

Among the beaches to lose the award were Velvet Strand in Portmarnock in Co Dublin, Ballybunion North beach in Co Kerry and White Strand Miltown Malbay in Co Clare.

An Taisce, which organises the Blue Flag awards, said that a new EU directive means readings are now based on a four-year testing period rather than just one season.

In a statement, it said there was a "predicted" decrease of Blue Flag awards, with 13 fewer than last year.

The others to lose the award were Skerries South Beach, The Brook Beach in Donabate and Portrane in Dublin; Lahinch, Co Clare; and Ceibh an Spideal in Co Galway.

Other beaches that had Blue Flag awards did not apply: Dollymount in Co Dublin, Morriscastle in Co Wexford, Bunmahon in Co Waterford and Redbarn, Garryvoe, Garretstown, Barleycove and Old Head in Co Cork.

There were three gains among the 74 beaches and marinas to get the award; for Killiney and Seapoint in Co Dublin and The Royal Yacht Club marina in Co Cork.

Mullaghmore in Sligo could not be awarded the Blue Flag as there are ongoing problems with livestock roaming on the beach.