Knysna’s Executive Mayor said they are extremely happy with the results. “Buffalo Bay and Brenton-on-Sea beaches once again received Blue Flag status. Swartvlei beach in the Sedgefield area received pilot status, and Thesen Islands Marina full Blue Flag status. I also want to congratulate Ocean Odyssey, a local Lagoon and Ocean charter boat company, for receiving their Blue Flag status.”
WESSA (the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) has announced a record 82 Blue Flag sites for the season at the launch which was attended by Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Hanekom. The Mayor said that integrated conservation management is key to their success. “Achieving Blue Flag status involves numerous NGO’s like the Knysna River Basin project, the Knysna Municipality, Cape Nature and SANParks. Team work is of the essence to achieve, and maintain this status and I want to thank the team at the municipality and all the other NGO’s and stakeholders in this natural asset for their contribution towards conserving it”
Ted Knott, WESSA’s National Coastal Programme Manager says that there are over 50 Blue Flag sites. “Since its launch in South Africa in 2001, the programme continues to grow significantly with a major contributing factor being the ongoing commitment from local governments. The attendance of the Minister of Tourism yesterday is also confirmation of government’s strong support for the Programme.”
Speaking at the launch event Minister Derek Hanekom said that investing in the environment has significant economic benefits. “Tourism is a very important sector of our economy as it is responsible for creating 1.4 million jobs in South Africa. This is more than the total number of jobs in the mining sector.”
The Mayor echoed these sentiments. “The main driving factor of our local economy is tourism and one of our biggest challenges as a local authority is how to balance economic growth with the well-being of our natural resources. The Blue Flag programme is one of the initiatives that help us to find this balance.”
She referred to the “Naturally Knysna” campaign that was launched with exactly this purpose in mind – to find balance. “We want to motivate residents and visitors to Knysna to recognise the impact their lifestyles have on the sensitive environment they live in. The core values of the campaign encourage lifestyles that emulate nature and in so doing we can live in harmony within it. Our success depends on our ability to generate green industry reliant on technology that does not detract from the environment.”
The Blue Flag Programme has been running internationally for 28 years. The Programme is focused on the conservation of our marine and coastal habitats, and is designed to raise environmental education and awareness, and increase sound environmental practices among tourists, local populations and beach management.
To achieve Blue Flag status, as many as 33 different criteria spanning over four aspects of coastal management have to be met: water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management (including access to sensitive areas) and safety and services. Each Blue Flag site is compelled to conduct several environmental education activities during the year, and to practise effective and efficient conservation management.
For further information about the Blue Flag Programme please visit www.blueflag.org.za.