Cape Town and Port Elizabeth between them have nine of the 19 beaches that were officially awarded Blue Flag status yesterday at a ceremony on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.
The accredited beaches will receive their Blue Flags at a ceremony to be held on Marina Beach in San Lameer near Port Shepstone.
Four beaches on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast were accredited along with four beaches in Port Elizabeth and five beaches in Cape Town.
South African municipalities applied to have 35 beaches accredited.
"There are 19 world-class beaches in South Africa, which shows with commitment and dedication we can have internationally recognised beaches.
"Beaches are not only for international tourists but for locals too. The Blue Flag at Margate beach has generated income, proving it to be an economic success," said Blue Flag coordinator Alison Kelly.
Referring to the difficulties faced by South African municipalities, she said: "Our biggest challenge is the water quality at the beaches.
"This is the most difficult criteria to meet, and next year, a much stricter standard will be applied. We have our work cut out for us. The remaining 16 beaches were granted pilot status and could be Blue Flag beaches by 2010.
"We have less than a year to get beaches ready for the 2010 Soccer World Cup," said Kelly.
A glaring omission from the Blue Flag programme were the Durban beaches. The eThekwini municipality had six beaches on the programme, but lost their status after unacceptably high sewage-related pollution was detected at five of the city's Blue Flag beaches.
The Blue Flag programme is owned and run by the independent non-profit organisation Foundation for Environmental Education, which has its head office in Copenhagen.
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa has been accredited to run the Blue Flag programme in South Africa. - Sapa