Blue Flag is an international annual award given to beaches that meet a standard of excellence in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information and environmental management. In South Africa, the Blue Flag programme is managed by WESSA and participating local authorities under the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Coastcare initiative. The strict criteria of the programme – in the areas of safety, amenities, cleanliness, environmental information and environmental management – are set by the international coordinators of the Blue Flag campaign in Europe, the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education). South Africa was the first country outside Europe to be granted Blue Flag accreditation for its beaches. A remarkable 24 beaches have been on the programme for more than five consecutive years, and two of these have participated for all fifteen years that the programme has been running in the country.
According to the World Tourism Organization, the international Blue Flag, which is now in its 25th year of operation, is the most well-known and oldest eco-label of its kind. Currently, more than 40 countries across Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean are participating in the programme and interest in the programme continues to grow with almost 4,000 Blue Flag beaches and marinas around the world.