WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) has announced that applications for the 2017/18 South African Blue Flag season are now open.
Blue Flag is an international, voluntary eco-label that focuses on the conservation of marine and coastal habitats, and is designed to provide environmental education, raise awareness and promote sound environmental practices among tourists, local populations and beach managers. It has become a global symbol of quality for beaches, boats and marinas that meet high standards of excellence in a number of criteria. The programme is managed by WESSA in South Africa, in partnership with participating coastal municipalities.
The Blue Flag programme is now in its 30th year and continues to grow both locally and abroad. A total of 45 South African beaches were awarded Blue Flag status for the 2016/17 season, along with five marinas and eight sustainable tourism boats. Internationally the figures are that almost 4300 beaches, boats and marinas were awarded Blue Flag status for the current season.
The United Nations have declared 2017 as the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and the Blue Flag programme offers an ideal means for guiding beaches, boats and marinas towards achieving sustainability.
WESSA and Blue Flag have strengthened their commitment to sustainable tourism through a number of initiatives over the past year:
- In October 2016 the Tourism Blue Flag coastal tourism project was launched in South Africa. The project, which is being managed and implemented by WESSA in partnership with the National Department of Tourism, has provided employment, education and training opportunities for more than 200 youths. Employed in the role of “Beach Stewards”, these youths are being hosted by local coastal municipalities at Blue Flag beaches across South Africa. Although in its early stages, the project is already resulting in improvements of the tourism facilities and services offered at these beaches.
- Last year Blue Flag international introduced new criteria for sustainable tourism boats, recognising the growing need for operators to implement sound and responsible practices to ensure that marine mammals are never at risk or stressed by surrounding boats. South Africa was among the first countries in the world to award this eco-label to sustainable tourism boats locally.
- More recently, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) – the international custodian of the Blue Flag eco-label – has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), the world’s largest partnership working to protect the cetacean group of marine mammals which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. This partnership will see the two organisations work hand-in-hand towards sustainability within the cetacean-watching industry and recognises Blue Flag and WCA’s existing work and expertise in their respective fields.
Applications from beaches, sustainable tourism boating operators and marinas for Blue Flag accreditation in the 2017/18 South African Blue Flag season are now open until 28 April.
About Blue Flag
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 set 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 practise effective and efficient conservation management. The detailed criteria and award process is available on Blue Flag’s international website www.blueflag.global
In South Africa the Blue Flag programme is managed by WESSA and participating coastal municipalities. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Blue Flag season runs from 1 November to 31 October each year. Beaches are required to apply for Blue Flag status each year and the Blue Flag standards are only enforced at the beaches over the participating beach’s stated season, which varies from just 2 months of the year to the full 12 months.
WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) is a leading implementer of high-impact environmental and conservation initiatives in South Africa. We are a trusted and effective project partner with a proud, 90-year history of enabling individuals and organisations to use natural resources sustainably. The priority areas of our work include the international eco-labels of Eco-Schools, Blue Flag and Green Key; environmental and work skills training; the conservation of life-supporting biodiversity and water resources through ecological infrastructure rehabilitation and restoration; climate change mitigation and adaptation; and environmental governance.