George Municipality was the proud recipient of three blue flags at the national launch hosted by George Municipality at Salina’s Wilderness today, 20 October 2023. Wilderness and Herold’s Bay beaches retained Blue flag status, Victoria Bay beach was awarded Blue Flag after being a pilot beach for two years and the new pilot blue flag was awarded to Leentjiesklip beach. Gwaiing Beach and River Mouth has been awarded a Green Coast Award for the 2023/24 festive season. The Green Coast Award, officially launched in 2017, is an annual award programme that recognises inclusive and sustainable management at less developed coastal sites with high biodiversity value.
Executive Mayor Leon Van Wyk the keynote speaker for the event, accompanied by Ward 4 Cllr Marlene Viljoen, Municipal Manager Dr Michele Gratz and Director for Community Services, Dawie Adonis took receipt of the flags and certifications at the launch. Blue Flag is an international coastal management programme that accredits beaches that meet standards of excellence in water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information as well as safety and services. In South Africa the programme is implemented by the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA).
Dr Gratz said Blue Flag status offered many benefits including improved tourism facilities, enhanced management of coastal ecosystems, increased awareness of the coast and capacity building of coastal municipalities. “Blue Flag status has significant international merit, and the achievement of such accolades is important to stimulate and confirm international and high-end interest in the city and district as a desirable, quality tourism and lifestyle destination. We thank SANParks Garden Route National Park who shares jurisdiction of Wilderness beach with the George Municipality.”
The Blue Flag season runs from 1 December 2023 to 31 January 2024. Compliance includes high standards of water quality monitoring, public safety and lifeguard services, and well-maintained coastal amenities. South Africa has participated in the Blue Flag programme since 2001.
Municipal Manager, Dr Michele Gratz in thanking everyone who attended the event noted that participation in the Blue Flag and Green Coast Awards is an honour. She also thanked attending George Municipal officials for the hard work and effort they have put in toward the hosting of the event as well as the preparation of the beaches so soon after the damage caused by the storm surges in early September this year.
ABOUT BLUE FLAG:
The iconic Blue Flag is one of the world’s most recognised voluntary eco-labels awarded to beaches, marinas, and sustainable boating tourism operators.
In order to qualify for the Blue Flag, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained.
With over 4500 sites in over 45 countries around the world, Blue Flag is actively contributing to the sustainable development goals. Blue Flag also campaigns against disparity, inequality, unemployment, health threats, depletion of natural resources, environmental threats, pollution and general environmental degradation.
In South Africa, Blue Flag has been operational since 2001 and has proud municipal, marina and tourism boat partners in 18 coastal municipalities around the country.
Blue Flag is voluntary, which shows a very strong commitment to environmental sustainability from those municipalities, marinas and tourism boat operators that are awarded annually. All properties and companies that apply for the Blue Flag award are assessed by a South African National Jury as well as by the Blue Flag International Jury in Europe.
ABOUT GREEN COAST:
Based on the success of the Blue Flag eco-label and the recognition that Blue Flag is only applicable to a limited stretch of urban coastline, WESSA developed a second coastal award for implementation along South Africa’s coastline. The Green Coast Award, officially launched in 2017, is an annual award programme that recognises inclusive and sustainable management at less developed coastal sites with high biodiversity value.
Green Coast is a platform for collaboration, innovation, and local public participation in coastal management. Successful coastal sites achieve Green Coast status by meeting a set of criteria that are designed to ensure environmental, developmental and participatory standards are continually maintained and improved. Where possible, Green Coast sites aim to include a resident’s association or public group who can mobilise active citizens to participate in the management of the site. The Green Coast criteria include aspects of basic ecological monitoring, encouraging citizen science initiatives that empower communities for civic action and influence localized decision making. Coastal areas with Green Coast status appeal to a specific sector of the tourism market who are looking for experiences in adventure, outdoor living, and nature tourism along our coastline. The Green Coast award assists these sites by putting them on the tourism map and promoting them all under one national eco-label.