Covering the coastline with our fabulous volunteers #VolunteersWeek

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 6 June 2018

MCS was started by volunteers. In 1983 a group of passionate divers formed the society from a garden shed in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. From just a handful of like-minded people over thirty years ago, our volunteer base is now in the thousands – and we couldn’t function without them!

Beachwatch volunteer cleaners and organisers, Sea Champions, Seasearch divers, Local Groups and office support – our volunteers bring their varied skills to MCS and help make us the organisation we have become. A charity with the sea at its heart and people at its soul.


Our Beachwatch programme, which includes the Great British Beach Clean, collects not only litter from hundreds of UK beaches but our volunteers (of which thousands have taken part over the past 25 years) also record what they find. The data they’ve collected has resulted in the 5p carrier bag charge, the ban on microbeads in personal care products, better labelling on wet wipes, a reduction in the use of plastic straws and the phasing out of cotton bud sticks with plastic stems among many other environmentally positive changes.

Our Sea Champions programme began in 2012 and since then our team of Sea Champion Volunteer Managers have now trained over 650 volunteers who have given almost 30,000 hours of their time. They do everything from manning stalls at events, taking the MCS message into schools and working in our head office, to organising beach cleans, participating in campaigns, giving talks, species surveying, raising funds and promoting sustainable seafood choices in their local community.

As well as Beachwatch celebrating 25 years in 2018, Seasearch has clocked up three decades this year too. Thirty years of sending divers down to collect vital data from around our coasts. The information collected by Seasearch divers has contributed to the creation of Marine Protected Areas around UK coasts by identifying species and habitats that are at risk from destructive practices. Divers have spent more than 10,000 hours surveying underwater.

We’ve been delighted to be part of the nationwide Capturing our Coast project by hosting one of the regional hubs from our head office. The project has trained up an army of citizen scientists to help create a real time picture of what’s happening on our coasts, from seaweed, limpets and lugworm sperm!

A massive, massive thank you to everyone who has ever been kind enough to give some of their time to help us because we really, really couldn’t do what we do without our wonderful volunteers!

Actions you can take

  1. Visit the beachwatch website
  2. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
  3. Join a beach clean
  4. Organise a beach clean

Did you know?…

Over 500,000 records of undersea species and habitats have been collected by volunteer Seasearch divers

Every year, over 1 million people take part in our campaigns and projects

MCS is a leading partner and volunteer trainer in the largest experimental marine citizen science project ever undertaken in the UK: Capturing our Coast

Become a Sea Champion

Find out more about our ‘Sea Champion’ volunteers and how to join them

Learn more