The list of beaches awarded Blue Flag status in South Africa has been released just in time for summer festive season.
According to the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), only 48 beaches received the coveted Blue Flag status for 2023/24 compared to 51 beaches in the 2022/23 season.
Blue Flag status beaches are a major drawcard for tourists as its one of the world’s most recognised voluntary eco-labels awarded to beaches, marinas and sustainable boating tourism operators.
In order for beaches to qualify for the award, they must meet and maintain a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety and accessibility criteria.
The Western Cape is still the leading destination when it comes to Blue Flag status beaches with 35 beaches on the list, with 8 of those being Cape Town’s beaches.
When it comes to KwaZulu-Natal, only 5 beaches received the award compared to 9 beaches which made it on to the list last year.
Once again, the eThekwini Municipality failed to get Blue Flag status for its beaches after vowing to get it back.
Last year the city pinned its failure on two consecutive floods, and saying its sanitation infrastructure was being fixed.
According to WESSA, the municipality did not submit any application for Blue Flag status for the 2023/24 period, therefore, it was not assessed for accreditation.
The KwaDukuza Municipality which had 3 beaches (Thompson’s Bay, Willard Beach and Blythdale beach) on the list last year, also failed to make it on to this year’s list, leaving the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality on the KZN South Coast as the only municipality with beaches awarded the Blue Flag Status in the province.
The Eastern Cape had 9 beaches on the list last year but only 8 made it onto the list this time around.
The Blue Flag programme has been locally managed by WESSA since 2001 in partnership with the global Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and participating coastal municipalities.
WESSA CEO Helena Atkinson acknowledged and commended the exceptional efforts made by local authorities, communities and volunteers in achieving excellent world class standards this season.
“It takes great dedication and effort to manage a beach or marina to meet the rigorous standards set out for this prestigious award, and we extend our warmest congratulations to all the deserving sites that have achieved the eco labels,” she said.
She also highlighted that achieving Blue Flag or Green Coast eco label was not just a status symbol but an indication of collective effort, commitment and compliance.
“By providing ongoing education programmes and training, we are able to provide citizens the key information about beach quality management at Blue Flag or Green Coast sites.
“It is also a way to recognise the hard work done by municipalities in providing safe natural spaces and preserving our natural resources for future generations,” she said.