PHILIPSBURG:—- Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) board member, Fleur Hermanides, participated in the yearly National Operators Meeting (NOM) for Blue Flag in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from October 13th to October 16th. Blue Flag, an internationally recognized and world-renowned eco-label for Beaches, Marinas, and Sustainable Boating Tourism Operators, is awarded through the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in Copenhagen, Denmark and has been managed by EPIC on Sint Maarten since 2011. Thus far 49 countries run the Blue Flag eco-label with 4271 sites worldwide, making Blue Flag one of the largest eco-labels of its kind.
Blue Flag is, however, far more than just an eco-label. Central to the ideals of the Blue Flag program is the aim of connecting the public with their surroundings and encouraging them to learn more about their environment. As such, environmental education activities are offered and promoted in addition to information being displayed relevant to the site in terms of biodiversity, (coastal) ecosystems, water quality, safety and environmental characteristics. The program advocates ensuring accessibility for all (i.e. wheelchair accessibility), and reducing the effects of human impacts.
All sites around the world are audited yearly to ensure the sites comply with all stipulations and can be (re-)awarded the flag, having maintained and constantly adhered to all the criteria to their utmost capabilities.
The annual meetings take place to discuss recent activities and developments, updates to policies, changes to (monitoring) criteria, best practices, local/regional/international experiences including bottlenecks and successes, as well as guidelines and regulations. 47 countries participated this time around, with 2 Caribbean countries not being able to attend due to hurricane and storm-related issues. Countries as far away as Japan and Korea, Australia and New Zeeland to as close by as Trinidad & Tobago attended, leading to interesting discussions, portraying the many differences as well as striking similarities one can experience, regardless of where in the world your site may be. During this meeting, two excursions were organized, with one visit being to Puerto del Rey, a Blue Flag Marina, the largest marina in the Caribbean, and the other to Palomino Island, a Blue Flag Beach, which spans almost the entire island. The excursions were organized to showcase and discuss best practices and to allow an opportunity to network as well.
EPIC was again very happy to attend such a monumental meeting and hopes to have the opportunity to, in the future, include more local sites to ensure a more sustainable future for Sint Maarten, for residents and visitors alike. November will be an exciting month in that regard, as the sites for 2016/2017 will then be (re-)awarded.
Another FEE eco-label managed on Sint Maarten by EPIC is Green Key, an eco-label which is awarded to hotels, guest houses, small accommodations, campsites, and restaurants. Green Key has been operated on the island since 2013, EPIC is also working on expanding this program to include more locations.
In addition to the aforementioned, FEE also runs the Young Reporters for the Environment and Eco-Schools programs. For more information on all of EPIC’s programs visit www.epicislands.org and www.facebook.com/epicislands
Environmental Protection in the Caribbean
Source: St. Martin News Network
Blue Flag meeting 2016,EPIC Sint Maarten.