By Bev Mortimer
Cape St Francis has once again been awarded a ‘Pilot Blue Flag’ status for its magnificent beach, and this will delight many of this St Francis village’s residents, but JBay residents, on the other hand, are bound to be upset their much-touted and justifiably bragged about Dolphin Beach has lost its ‘Full Blue Flag Status’. This after 16 years of Dolphin Beach being a ‘Full Blue Flag Beach’ – about 11 years under the previous ANC municipal government, and 5 years under the DA government.
In order to qualify for the Full Blue Flag status, a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria must be met and maintained. This year Dolphin Beach did not comply.
According to WESSA’s National Coastal Coordinator, Tevya Lotriet, Dolphin Beach did not get the full title “due to non-compliant water quality testing. As per the Blue Flag criteria, a beach must test for both E.coli and streptococci – this is compulsory. Dolphin beach tested for E.coli but not streptococci.”
Lotriet also said St Francis Marina, which received Full Blue Flag status for the past two years, did not submit an application for the Blue Flag 2021/22 season, which is why they were not awarded the title this year. The chairman of the St Francis Bay Riparians HOA, has been overseas for several months.
According to Greg Miller of the St Francis Bay Riparian Home Owners Association, the Blue Flag is an international eco label that has been adopted by the KLM for its beaches and marinas, although the SFBRHOA assisted with and funded the initial application.
“Applications are handled by the Klm beach and tourism departments. We are not aware why the submission for the canals was not made, but it seems this has been the case since the start of covid lockdowns.
“Blue flag status does not effect the way in which the canals are managed and the SFBRHOA continues to manage and maintain the canals to standards that meet or exceed the requirements of a Blue Flag Marina. The Blueflag eco label has been adopted as a tourism and marketing tool for Kouga and although the status provides recognition for the condition of our canals, the annual fee is not currently seen as a reasonable/justifiable expense for the SFBRHOA to carry into the future.
“The canals have not “lost” the Blueflag status rather the re-application was not done. It’s important to note that neither the application nor Status have any bearing on the environmental management practices we uphold on the canals.”
In its press release sent to printed media, WESSA said: “ In recognition for their excellence in safety, amenities, cleanliness, and environmental standards, 60 Blue Flags will be proudly flown at 51 beaches, 5 marinas and by 4 sustainable tourism boats around South Africa over the forthcoming 2021/2022 Blue Flag season.
In 2016 WESSA first awarded the ‘Pilot’ title to Cape St Francis Beach. But this village’s residents were divided about making the beach ‘Full Blue Flag’ status. A pilot beach sets the beach in preparation to be developed to become a ‘Full Blue Flag Beach’.
Kouga Municipality has since 2015/6 been submitting an application for ‘Pilot’ status for Cape St Francis beach. In November 2016 Elza van Lingen, the first DA Mayor of Kouga told St Francis Chronicle: “Cape St Francis beach has been awarded ‘Pilot’ Blue Flag status, but no final decision has as yet been made as to whether the municipality will pursue full Blue Flag status for the beach.
“There are sections of the local community who believe the Blue Flag will not be beneficial to the town. As governors, it is our duty to engage with them regarding their concerns before a final decision is made.”
Little has been done since 2016 about upgrading that beach to the level to enable it to get to Full Blue Flag status.
Talking in general about the importance of Blue Flag beaches on its website WESSA says: “With more than over 4500 sites in over 45 countries around the world, Blue Flag is voluntary, which shows a very strong commitment to environmental sustainability from those municipalities, marinas and tourism boat operators that are awarded annually.
“All properties and companies that apply for the Blue Flag award are assessed by a South African National Jury as well as by the Blue Flag International Jury in Europe.”
“Blue Flag Beaches are often the main attraction for visitors to enjoy in various coastal towns and cities. Blue Flag is the global symbol of quality for beaches, boats, and marinas in the environmental management of our coastline and coastal waters to help tourism growth and development.”
Dolphin Beach’s prestigious status has been lauded with extreme pride by Kouga Municipality over the years, by first the previous ANC government and especially since the DA came to power. For example, Brenton Williams, Finance portfolio Clr, in 2018 said about the award: “We are super proud that we have retained this status as it is international confirmation that Dolphin Beach is a quality holiday destination. “It recognises that we (the DA Kouga Municipality) are at the forefront of beach management as stringent international conditions must be met,” he said.
Applications for the Blue Flag eco-label are reviewed annually by a South African and international jury panel.
To achieve the status as many as 33 criteria, spanning over four areas of coastal management, must be maintained. The four areas are water quality, environmental education information, environmental management, and safety services.
Meanwhile this month of October, a Kouga Municipality election poster caused complaints from some Kouga residents as it used an incorrect date (see photo).
This caused Clr Vernon Stuurman of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality under which Kouga falls, to comment: “I have driven past this poster a few times now and initially didn’t want to say anything about it. The purpose of any advertisement is to speak to you and then convince you about its content. “Blue Flag status since 2016” ?
“I can remember how hard the municipality’s former Community Services director, James Foreman, now a respected church leader, worked to convince the Council that the Blue Flag was a worthwhile project with benefits for the area. I believe that each person wants to leave a legacy and this project, which he piloted, was already bearing fruit before he left the municipality in 2006, as Blue Flag status had already been achieved by then.
“I remember how he and the late Stanley Baartman ensured that the achievement was celebrated properly. People with vision should be recognized. The truth should not be twisted by others for self-gain at the expense of those who actually had the vision.”
St Francis Chronicle was unable to contact Kouga Municipality for comment after hours.