Applications for the prestigious Blue Flag eco-label were reviewed earlier this year and put through a rigorous approval process involving both national and international assessments.
The announcement of the 2016 International Blue Flag results revealed that a total of 45 South African beaches have been awarded Blue Flag status this year, along with five marinas and eight sustainable tourism boats.
The Western Cape has achieved the highest number of Blue Flag sites, with 29 of the beaches, all eight boats and four of the five Blue Flag marinas falling in the province.
Plettenberg Bay has received Blue Flag status for five beaches during the 2016/17 season. This includes Robberg 5 (8th year), Keurboomstrand (6th year), Nature’s Valley (5th year), Lookout (3rd year) and the newest to join Blue Flag status is The Dunes beach.
Another Plett accolade includes Offshore Adventure being recognised with Blue Flag Boat status.
“The Blue Flag programme’s aim of connecting the public with their surroundings and at the same time, encouraging them to learn more about their environment falls in line with our tourism strategy in Plett. Environmental education and activities are an essential component for us,” says Plett Tourism Media Manager Patty Butterworth. “We are ecstatic about our six accolades, particularly with The Dunes beach and Offshore Adventures both acquiring new Blue Flag status. We recognise the champion efforts from the Bitou Municipality, and in particular Johnny Prins. The dedication and effort put in has resulted in the area to maintain previous status awards and to now receive new Blue Flag status.”
With programmes in place like Nature’s Valley Trust’s #ShareTheShores campaign, Plett may look forward to additional Blue Flag status products and beaches in years to come. Says Dr Mark Brown, Programme Director of Nature’s Valley Trust “We firmly believe that beach users can share the space we enjoy with the biodiversity we have that makes Plett so special. By studying the impact we have on these animals, and designing locally relevant education and awareness programs, we are convinced that
our beach loving residents and visitors will embrace the campaign and enable people to enjoy Plett’s beach wildlife for generations to come.”
New to the assessments is the additional 22 beaches across three provinces that have been given Pilot Blue Flag status – an important development stage for potential Blue Flag sites, during which WESSA works with beach managers towards the longer term goal of achieving Full Status. Internationally, close to 4 300 beaches, boats and marinas have been awarded Blue Flag status for the 2016/17 season.
Blue Flag Awards are given annually and also celebrate the sustained partnerships that WESSA has built with key municipalities around the country, who have recognised the value of Blue Flag status. They are recognised for their contribution to not just environmental management and education, but also to tourism, economic development and job creation.
This year’s event also marked the launch of an exciting new coastal tourism projects to be managed and implemented by WESSA in partnership with the National Department of Tourism. The Tourism Blue Flag Project aims to improve tourism facilities and services offered at Blue Flag beaches across South Africa, while still providing youth employment opportunities.
Through this project, 200 participants will be employed in the role of “Beach Stewards” and hosted by local coastal municipalities at Blue Flag sites. Plettenberg Bay will receive 15 Beach Stewards, 3 will be appointed at each Blue Flag beach site. They will received accredited training in environmental education and practical work experience with the ultimate aim of developing them for further employment in the coastal tourism sector (the “Blue Economy).
ABOUT BLUE FLAG:
Blue Flag is the prestigious, voluntary eco-label for beaches, boats and marinas that is recognised as a trusted symbol of quality and is regarded by the World Tourism Organisation as the most well-known global eco-label.
The Blue Flag Programme, which has been running internationally since 1987, is focused on the conservation of marine and coastal habitats, and is designed to raise environmental education and awareness, and increase sound environmental practices among tourists, local populations and beach management. To achieve Blue Flag status, as many as 33 different criteria spanning over four aspects of coastal management have to be met: water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and services. The criteria are asset by the international coordinators of the Blue Flag campaign in Europe, the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education). Each Blue Flag site is compelled to conduct several environmental education activities during the year, and to practice effective and efficient conservation management. The detailed criteria and award process is available on Blue Flag’s international website www.blueflag.global.
ABOUT NATURE’S VALLEY TRUST:
Nature’s Valley Trust is a small community driven NPO working at the cutting edge of integrated conservation in South Africa. We operate in four main arenas, namely Conservation, Education, Community and Research.
Nestled in the magnificent Garden Route, and situated in world renowned Nature’s Valley, we are a passionate group of conservationists that aim to make a practical difference with the work we do. For more information contact Dr Mark Brown, Programme Director, Nature’s Valley Trust, www.naturesvalleytrust.co.za.