While dogs will still be allowed to enjoy the beaches of Buffalo Bay and Brenton-on-Sea this holiday season, their movements will be more restricted to comply with international Blue Flag requirements.
The two beaches, which are situated within the Knysna municipal area, were awarded Blue Flag status on 11 October 2012. It was the first time the municipality participated in the international programme.
Knysna Municipal Manager Lauren Waring explained that provisions for Blue Flag Beaches were very strict and included that absolutely no dogs were allowed in the designated bathing areas of such beaches during the peak holiday periods from 1 December 2012 to 31 January 2013.
“However, to accommodate dog owners and still remain within the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA) criteria, designated areas outside the swimming zone will be open for this purpose before 9am and after 5pm every day. In Brenton the pet-friendly zone is 300 metres west of the second lifesaving flag and in Buffalo Bay it starts east of the last beach residence.
“Dogs must be on a leash at all times, mainly for the protection of the endangered African Black Oystercatchers that are currently breeding on the sand and rocks on these beaches. We recognise that dogs that walk and run with their owners regularly are usually well-socialised and accustomed to interacting with strange dogs and people, and that a number of them have attended dog training. Obviously dogs that are not well-socialised should either be very well-contained in public spaces or should not be placed in a situation which is detrimental to the dog and the general public.”
Pet owners are requested not to bury dog poop in the sand or throw it out to sea, but are required to clean up after their dogs and dispose of poop bags in the correct bins, irrespective of whether the mess is in or outside the Blue Flag zone.
Normal access routes can be used to both beaches.
Ms Waring said the municipality was well aware of the role that residents played in keeping their local beaches clean, neat and beautiful. She extended a special thanks to those who considered these beaches their home and did not take their contribution for granted. “We realise that it is often local residents who pick up litter that has washed onto the beaches or report to us when things go wrong. We are very appreciative of the support that the residents and businesses provide.”
She appealed to dog owners making use of Buffalo Bay and Brenton-on-Sea beaches to respect the Blue Flag requirements for this period. “We realise that this may be inconvenient, but we ask that they try to see the bigger picture here. Throughout the world it has been proven that Blue Flag beaches eventually benefit from this accreditation and we believe it will ultimately lead to increased tourism and higher residential and commercial property values,” said Ms Waring.
A statement from the Knysna Blue Flag Steering Committee – comprising WESSA, the Knysna Municipality, Eden Municipality, SANParks and the Brenton Conservancy – said there would be a strong law enforcement presence on both beaches in December and January as per the Blue Flag international standards.
“The Brenton and Buffalo Bay beaches are the FIRST Blue Flags for Knysna and therefore carry the accolade of exceptional global biodiversity and scenic qualities which need to be managed for the enjoyment of the people of South Africa, foreign tourists and, in particular, the citizens of Knysna, without compromising its ecological integrity. Blue Flag also encourages safe swimming, boosts tourism and the economy of a town, delivers educational awareness programmes and ensure excellent water quality standards and facilities.
The public are urged to kindly cooperate with this request in light of the International Blue Flag standards and in view of the substantial benefits it holds for Knysna, its rich heritage, cultural and biological diversity.”
South Africa has participated in the Blue Flag programme since 2001. 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. The Blue Flag programme offers many benefits: improved tourism facilities, enhanced management of coastal ecosystems, increased awareness of the coast and capacity building of coastal municipalities. In South Africa the programme is implemented by the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA).