NINE beaches in KwaZulu-Natal have been awarded the coveted Blue Flag status. KZN beaches that received Blue Flag status include Marina, Trafalgar, Lucien, Southport, Umzumbe, Hibberdene and Ramsgate. In eThekwini Municipality, Ushaka and Westbrook received the Blue Flag Status.MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Sihle Zikalala welcomed the awarding of Blue Flag status to beaches in KwaZulu-Natal. Zikalala added that the province would continue to upgrade and maintain its beach recreational facilities and maintain the highest environmental standards in order to meet and even surpass the Blue Flag standards. “For nine beaches in KZN to make the cut is ample proof that our strategy of enhancing the status of our province as a world class tourism destination that upholds the highest standards is paying the dividends,” said MEC Zikalala. Ward councillor Geoff Pullan was over the moon after Westbrook Beach was ranked among the top beaches in KZN, saying: “As the ward councillor, am pleased that Westbrook Beach has again achieved full Blue Flag status. “Thanks to officials and the public who care for our beaches.”In order for a beach to be awarded this prestigious status, it must meet a set of stringent criteria set by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) and Blue Flag International. Criteria include aspects relating to water quality, management, safety and security, environmental education and information.“Being awarded a Blue Flag status means that we are all playing our part towards protecting our environment from pollution and man-made degradation whilst simultaneously ensuring that we do not compromise on our reputation as the most preferred domestic tourism destination. “Looking ahead, we now want to ensure that we expand our Blue Flag beaches by converting the status of those beaches that have been identified as pilot sites,” Zikalala said.