Britain's Beaches Receive MCS Acclaim

As the United Kingdom holiday season begins, the Marine Conservation Society has reported that there are more clean beaches to choose from than ever before. The Marine Conservation Society’s Good Beach Guide 2000 recommends a record number of beaches, 215 in total and 35 more than in 1999.

A decrease in sewage pollution has been recorded along many parts of the United Kingdom’s coastline. Previous highly contaminated areas such as Northern England and Scotland have recorded improvements in bathing water quality, and for the first time the Good Beach Guide recommends beaches in the North West. The number of beaches throughout the United Kingdom that have failed the lowest water quality standards has also decreased significantly compared to last year.

"This year the Good Beach Guide results have shown that the extensive clean up programmes are paying off, with fewer beaches failing the minimum water quality standard," said Kate Hutchinson, Coastal Pollution Officer for the Marine Conservation Society.

"This is the only truly independent guide to bathing water quality in the United Kingdom and allows the public to make an informed choice of where to swim safely, without having to worry about being exposed to sewage pollution. MCS is delighted that this year there is a wider choice of recommended beaches than ever before."

The Good Beach Guide is published every year as part of the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas, which the Crown Estate is sponsoring over the next three years from 2000 to 2002. As a substantial owner of marine land, sponsorship of the MCS Campaign for Clean Seas is part of the Crown Estate’s commitment to the good stewardship of land in its care. The overall aim of the campaign is to improve the quality of United Kingdom coastal waters by reducing the input of pollutants that harm human health and marine life.

749 beaches were monitored for bathing water quality by the relevant authorities of (the Environment Agency [England and Wales], Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Department of Environment N. Ireland, Isle of Man Government, States of Guernsey Board of Administration and Jersey Tourism) in 1999. Over a quarter of the beaches were recommended – 215 (29%) met the stringent criteria for clean bathing required by the Marine Conservation Society and are featured in this year’s Good Beach Guide. MCS will only recommend beaches in the Guide if they meet stringent European water quality standards and are not affected by inadequately treated sewage. 80 (11%) beaches failed to meet the minimum water quality standards, a significant drop compared with the previous year. This reflects significant improvements in the bathing water quality, however MCS believes that no beaches should fail and says that many of the planned treatment developments can not come soon enough.

"Although the results are encouraging, we cannot afford to ease the pace of improvement now. Raw and inadequately treated sewage is still being discharged into coastal waters. It is unacceptable in the new Millennium for the public to be exposed to pathogens from sewage contamination. A case last year highlighted the need for all coastal discharges to be treated to at least secondary level," said Kate Hutchinson.

"The now out-of-date Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) does not take into account the level of sewage treatment and the present water quality standards do not ensure that the water is free of sewage pollution – MCS is calling for urgent action."

MCS will continue to call for an urgent revision of the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) to raise the required water quality standards across Europe to a level that protects the public and marine life, and eliminates human sewage pollution from our seas.