Grotto and Hawston beaches are counted once again amongst the 19 South African beaches that received accreditation to proudly fly the Blue Flag – international symbol of excellence in safety, amenities, cleanliness and environmental management.
Participating beaches were judged by a panel of local as well as international judges. A few beaches such as Kleinmond were unlucky to just miss accreditation and will serve as pilot projects again this year in view of next year’s competition.
Theo Beyleveldt, executive mayor of the Overstrand, describes the Blue Flag accreditation as an invaluable marketing tool for Hermanus. Tourists, especially international tourists are insisting increasingly on Blue Flag status for the beaches that they visit, he said.
This is the sixth year since the competition started in 2001 that Grotto achieved Blue Flag accreditation, making it one of the most established Blue Flag beaches in the country. Hawston achieved the honour for the third time this year.
Recent studies showed that the Blue Flag makes economic sense and can potentially earn an income of millions every year for the beach and its environment.
To maintain Blue Flag status, however does not come cheap and involves strict adherence to environmental criteria, including sending a sample of the sea water for laboratory testing every week.
Beyleveldt said Hermanus is one of the few coastal towns that does not pump sewage water into the sea.
During the Blue Flag presentation ceremony at San Lameer last week, mention was made of the high cost of storm damage reparations during the past year.
The Overstrand also suffered extensive storm damage at the end of August this year and the cost of subsequent reparations amounted to about R700 000.
According to the Blue Flag organisers, municipalities are facing a continuing challenge to repair damage to infrastructure and the coastline in view of the current climate changes.
About 38 countries are participating in the Blue Flag programme, while a further seven are preparing for Blue Flag status. South Africa has been requested to assist countries belonging to the Southern African Development Community and Indian Ocean Islands with their applications.
Internationally there are about 3500 Blue Flag beaches and marinas. In South Africa, the Blue Flag campaign is managed by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) in partnership with the department of environmental affairs and tourism (DEAT) and participating coastal authorities under the Coastcare initiative. South Africa was the first country outside Europe to be granted Blue Flag accreditation for its beaches.