The 2015/16 Blue Flag season begins on 1st November. The official launch took place in Hermanus, South Africa today. At the launch the new long term achievement awards were introduced to honor the 15th anniversary of the participation of South African beaches in marine and ecological conservation.

Blue Flag is a respected Eco-label which has been implemented and overseen by The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA). Since the program in South Africa began in 2001, WESSA has been supported in their endeavors by both coastal municipalities and other authorities.

The awards are a way to acknowledge the municipalities who have worked alongside WESSA and who recognize conserved beaches are anenvironmental effort that also benefits tourism, sustainable development and job creation.

The event was attended by the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, Municipality Executives, and Wessa leadership. The Minister has attended a number of launches over the years and is an indicator of the strong support for the program at government level.

Minister Hanekom said that the program is very important to South Africa as the country has 3,200 km of coastline. As beaches attract tourism that creates jobs, the conservation of them is vital. Hanekon went on to say that the long term vision is for the Flag status to become the norm for all South African beaches.

At the launch Minister Hanekom went on to say “WESSA and the Department of Tourism are entering into a formal partnership with a coastal job creation project, which will involve 200 people working on beaches all around the country. This project, to be managed by WESSA, will create employment for people living along our coastal areas who will work to help beaches maintain their Eco-labelstatus, to keep the environment healthy and to improve the experience of beach-goers.

This will in turn lead to more tourism, new industries and more jobs.”

The Blue Flag status involves a rigorous approval process which involves both local and international assessment. This season there is a significant number of new beaches who have applied for Pilot Status. Whilst in Pilot Status, the new beaches will be carefully mentored by WESSA who will provide support during the transition phase to full status.

About Blue Flag

Blue Flag is a prestigious, voluntary Eco-label for beaches, boats and marinas that is recognized as a trusted symbol of quality and is regarded by the World Tourism Organisation as the most well-known global Eco-label.

South Africa currently has a total of 46 Flag Beaches, 6 Marinas and 6 Boats. The program also has 27 Pilot beach sites, which are in the process of getting their facilities and services prepared for full status next season. Source- Blue Flag

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