Marine Conservation Society

The World's oceans are home to countless species, from the tiniest plankton to the greatest whales. And marine life around the coast of the British Isles is just as colourful and fascinating as that found anywhere else in the World's oceans, with bright blue lobsters, jewel-like anemones, and giant basking sharks to name just a few.

Yet this marine life, and the sea on which so many people depend, is under threat from pollution, over-fishing and other damaging activities. And, because the sea is vast and hides its ills well, it remains largely unprotected. You may not know, for example, that:

  • Less than 0.002% of UK seas is fully protected (a small patch of sea off Lundy Island);

  • Only 3 of the 8 main commercial fish stocks in the North Sea are fished within safe biological limits;

  • Many hundreds of dolphins and porpoises wash up on our beaches each year, killed as bycatch in some fisheries.

There are ways that the UK public can help MCS make headway in protecting our seas, one of which is the forthcoming Beachwatch beachclean and survey over the weekend of September 16th and 17th 2006; every year, on the third weekend of September, thousands of volunteers clear selected sections of their chosen beach and record what they find.

Beachwatch surveys have found that the number of items of this most visible form of pollution, marine litter, has more than doubled on UK beaches over the last decade. Apart from being an eyesore, debris has an impact on marine life. Turtles, whales and dolphins are regularly found to have swallowed plastic bags, possibly mistaking them for their jellyfish prey. Some frightening research found that 96% of fulmars (seabirds) autopsied from North Sea populations had swallowed plastic. 

Marine Conservation Society

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to protecting our seas, shores and wildlife.  As a charity of very limited resources, MCS has a huge cause to get behind - campaigning for clean seas and beaches, sustainable fisheries, protection of marine life and their habitats, and the sensitive use of our marine resources for future generations. All forms of support are welcome, and you may like to join MCS, or help with the MCS “Coastal Challenge”, a drive to combine the efforts of thousands of people to achieve a total distance of 18,470 km (11,477 miles) - the length of the UK's beautiful and varied coastline – and raise £50,000 in sponsorship by World Oceans Day, June 8th 2007. 

To take part in Beachwatch, or to enquire about any marine matters, contact MCS: Telephone 01989 566017, email; website  

First published in CJS Focus on Coast & Marine Environments in association with The Marine Biological Association and Marine Conservation Society on 21 August 2006