Fight to save beaches pays off

John Harvey

THE efforts of hundreds of Garden Route volunteers to salvage the doomed Kiani Satu cargo vessel earlier this year have been rewarded by Knysna mayor Georlene Wolmarans, who has dedicated the town’s three Blue Flags to them.

The municipality recently secured Blue Flags for the Buffalo Bay and Brenton-on-Sea beaches for the second year running, while Thesen Islands became the region’s first Blue Flag marina.

The Kiani Satu ran aground in the Goukamma Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area near Buffalo Bay on August 8, threatening three estuaries in nearby Sedgefield and Knysna. While the ship eventually sank about 110 nautical miles off the coast, volunteers ensured that pollution was kept to a minimum along the coastline. The operation involved 350 people from some 20 organisations.

Wolmarans said the municipality’s three blue flags were not being taken for granted, particularly as only three months before the awarding of the flags all three shores were under threat.

“The endless complications that we may have had to deal with if things turned out differently remain unthinkable. Without the efforts and support of the many organisations and individuals who worked day and night to rescue crew and get all that oil and rice safely off our coastline, this may have been a very different summer season indeed. To us they are all heroes.”

She said many who did duty during the operation would be working in the very same spots in the height of the summer season. “May we all look at those Blue Flags this season, remember the crisis we were fortunate enough to avoid, and celebrate our blessings,” she said.

She also thanked the Wildlife Environmental Society of South Africa, which implemented the Blue Flag programme in South Africa, and had remained in contact with the Knysna municipality during and after the Kiani Satu drama.

Knysna NSRI station commander Graeme Harding, whose team was integral in rescuing the crew from the ship when it first ran aground and remained on the scene throughout, said the mayor’s gesture was a “great pat on the back”.

“Obviously all our guys are volunteers, so it is really nice that they have been recognised in this way.”

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