When we travel to distant shores and head to the local beach at our vacation destination, we expect the idyllic beaches and romantic marinas that were advertised in the brochures. We expect clean boats and well train crew members on these vessels when we go whale watching. Sometimes we get this but sometimes we are disappointed. There had to be a way to regulate or at least monitor these venues and operators.
This is how the Blue Flag certification was born in 1985, when the French were awarded for cleaning up their beaches and water quality. By 1987 the European Commission had accepted the idea and the Blue Flag program was born.
There are 32 criteria for beaches, 24 for marinas and a substantial list for boats and whale watching boats that set out the compliance requirements for Blue Flag status and once awarded these beaches, marinas and operators are monitored and re evaluated annually. Status can be withdrawn in the middle of a season if the awarded party slips up on their standards; therefore Blue Flag status promotes responsible tourism.
Some of the factors that must be met are:
1) Environmental Education and Information
Example: Quote: “A code of conduct that reflects appropriate laws governing the use of the beach and surrounding areas must be displayed”
2) Water Quality
Example: Quote: “No industrial, waste-water or sewage-related discharges should affect the beach area.”
3) Environmental Management
Example: Quote: “Waste disposal bins/containers must be available at the beach in adequate numbers and they must be regularly maintained.”
4) Safety and Services
Example: Quote: “An adequate number of lifeguards and/or lifesaving equipment must be available at the beach.”
Back in 1987 Blue Flags were awarded to 244 beaches and 208 marinas in 10 European countries, today the number is far greater at 3012 beaches and 638 marinas worldwide and this number is updated annually.
South Africa has 23 Blue Flag awarded beaches but no marinas or whale watching boats have complied with the stringent requirements until just recently. This is a huge tourist attraction because visitors can feel confident that they can swim in clean water, expect high quality emergency services if needed and lie or walk on a clean beach. They can expect well maintained boats when purchasing ocean cruises and whale watching cruises and quality experiences on the marinas.
In South Africa, Cape Town’s False Bay Yacht Club, Granger Bay Water Club and Royal Cape Yacht Club are the first three marinas to receive a Blue Flag pilot status. They will need to work hard to reach full status by June 2012. Also working hard to graduate from pilot to full status is a Gansbaai Whale Watching boat.
For a full list of beaches in South Africa please check the Blue Flag website regularly.
Our blog picture today is of Camps Bay in Cape Town, a Blue Flag Beach.
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Author: Principle writer – Celeste Wilson
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