South Africa has been awarded 77 Blue Flag status sites for 2020/21, made up of 48 beaches, 6 marinas, 4 boats as well as 19 pilot status sites – all recognised for their excellence in the areas of cleanliness, safety, environmental standards and amenities. This was revealed at the National Blue Flag Launch held in Durban on 27 November.
Most Blue Flag sites listed are in the Western Cape, with Overstrand reclaiming all four Blue Flag beaches. The accreditation is awarded for one season at a time and municipalities must apply annually to renew the status of their beaches. If conditions at the beach deteriorate, it can be withdrawn. Overstrand Municipality was applauded for the role they play in ensuring the retention of the status.
In addition, Grotto beach in Hermanus celebrates a remarkable 20 consecutive years on the program. What makes this accolade even more noteworthy, is that Grotto and Humewood in Port Elizabeth are the only two beaches that hold the record for being awarded the longest uninterrupted Blue Flag association in the country.
Hawston and Kleinmond beaches have enjoyed Blue Flag status for 15 consecutive years, while this summer will be the second Blue Flag season for Castle beach in Pearly Beach. Onrus beach was awarded pilot Blue Flag Status for the 2020/21 summer season, which means Onrus will be considered for full Blue Flag status if certain criteria are met within a specified period of time. (Pilot sites are recognised for working towards meeting the minimum requirements for full Blue Flag status).
Because of the costs involved, the majority of the Blue Flag beaches in South Africa are operated as Blue Flag beaches during the December/January holiday season only.
Blue Flag status will be in effect on Hawston, Kleinmond and Castle beaches from 1 December to 17 January. Grotto’s Blue Flag status will remain in effect until 31 March 2021. In the case of Onrus beach (pilot status), water sampling will be done between 1 December and 17 January.
Dog owners making use of the Overstrand’s Blue Flag beaches must respect the Blue Flag requirements for these periods.
The Blue Flag status is a well-respected international award, ensuring that each Blue Flag beach is not only beautiful and safe but also environmentally friendly and socially responsible, and that it has accessible facilities for the disabled. As such, Blue Flag beaches are highly sought after by tourists.
In South Africa, the Blue Flag programme is managed and run by WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) in conjunction with participating municipal authorities. The criteria for the programme are set by the international co-ordinators of the Blue Flag campaign in Europe, the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education).
In addition, the Blue Flag Programme is designed to raise environmental awareness and to educate the community about the need to care for our coastline. The programme furthermore stipulates that water samples are taken at regular intervals and that an independent laboratory should be responsible for testing all sea water samples.