Since we were formed in 1983 as the Marine Conservation Society, our campaign to protect the UK’s seas, shores and wildlife has achieved so much. Our supporters have helped us to campaign, lobby, record, clean, advise and influence, ensuring that every year our UK coasts and seas are in a better state for future generations.
1987 – we were entrusted with continuing the campaign for cleaner bathing waters started by the parents of a girl who died after swimming in sewage contaminated waters. Their Golden List of Beaches evolved into the Good Beach Guide, which is now published annually online.
1994 – Beachwatch was launched to bring attention to the growing problem of marine litter and the increasing amount of rubbish found on our beaches. Tens of thousands of volunteers help MCS clean beaches and monitor litter levels. Data collected has resulted in steps to reduce pollution from plastic bags, microbeads, and more, and the information feeds into the International Coastal Cleanup which gives a global picture of this litter problem.
1998 – Our Basking Shark Watch programme scored a major success. Information from the public and our own research identified that these magnificent creatures were at risk and resulted in basking sharks being protected in UK waters.
2000 – 60% of UK seas and coastline are in Scotland and MCS used the millennium year to open up an office in Edinburgh. Staff in Scotland have been instrumental in raising the profile of the need for marine protected areas here, the problems of marine litter and sewage in our seas.
2002 – The MCS Good Fish Guide was launched. Quickly established as a vital tool for consumers, industry and chefs, our advice is now used to shape the fish-buying ethos of leading supermarkets.
2007 - MCS worked with the film makers behind “The End of The Line”, a ground-breaking documentary that grabbed the public’s attention on the future of fish and fishing (released in 2009).
2008 – MCS celebrated its 25 year anniversary and published its ground-breaking Silent Seas Report, which looked at the current state of our seas and identified future bleak scenarios which could result if action wasn’t taken to protect the three areas we campaign for – seas, shores and wildlife.
2009/2010 – A key milestone, the Marine and Coastal Access Act was passed for the UK and a little later the Marine (Scotland) Act also reached the statute books. A decade on from the beginning of the Marine Nature Conservation Review and after ten years of lobbying and campaigning, the first steps were in place to secure the future of our seas.
2011 – Our sustainable seafood advice was the cornerstone of the Channel 4 Big Fish Fight series in January. We also met with ministers to lobby for the changes we wanted to see in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
2013 – MCS succeeded in convincing the UK Government that a charge on single-use bags for English shops was needed, following introductions of charges in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (the charge in Scotland came in in 2014). 2,000 people marched on parliament in London to demand Marine Conservation Zones in English seas. The first 27 MCZs were announced along with a commitment for two further consultations in 2015 and 2016. MCS called for crucial reforms in the long-awaited update of the Common Fisheries Policy, which aim to give fishing in Europe a more sustainable future.
2014 - Nearly 10,000 people took part in beach clean and survey events - the Big Beach Clean Up and the Great British Beach Clean. We kicked off the Marine Litter Action Network with a gathering in Birmingham in June - the start of a Year to Make a Difference. A carrier bag charge was introduced in Scotland. MCS and other NGOs called on Scottish Government to deliver the ‘best 29’ MPAs and, in July 2014, 30 new nature conservation MPAs were set up, including the largest in Europe.
2015 - Our President, HRH The Prince of Wales joined us at the Oceans Plastics Awareness Day on a beach in Cornwall to highlight the growing problem of plastic litter and the work of volunteers and organisations to promote plastic recycling and reduce litter at source. A plastic bag charge was introduced in English shops to help reduce littering. A further 23 Marine Conservation Zones were designated in English waters bringing the total to 50.
2016 - Defra ministers committed to removing microplastics from cosmetics and possibly other household products, depending on the outcome of a consultation launched in December 2016.The Wet Wipes Turn Nasty campaign achieved rapid results, gaining commitments from retailers to label their products as unflushable. We launched a new Good Fish Guide App, with recipes and restaurant locations as well as sustainable seafood advice. After the ‘Don’t Take the P’ campaign with other NGOs, over 2,200km2 of inshore Scottish MPAs were protected from damaging fishing.
2017 - MCS helped Sky News put together its Ocean Rescue programming and campaign. We were bowled over by the number of people who joined the Plastic Challenge in June, when over 5,000 people attempted to go without single use plastic for the month. We successfully called for protection measures at Loch Carron, where scallop dredging had destroyed rich seabed wildlife. Scotland committed to introducing a deposit return system (DRS) for drinks containers.
2018 - MCS featured on Ocean Outdoor digital billboards across the UK with our compelling ‘Would you care more if it was you?’ images, all part of our successful #StopthePlasticTide campaign. Thanks to funding from Waitrose and People’s Postcode Lottery a record 14,527 volunteers took part in our Great British Beach Clean in September, whilst over 9,000 signed up to the Plastic Challenge. During the year we launched the first Fish Finger Guide which revealed that 85% of fish in the fingers we investigated came from our green rated ‘Best Choice’ list – it was a media coverage winner. We also continued to demand charges and bans for single-use plastic items – including a Deposit Return Scheme in England and Wales and bans on stirrers, lids and straws. In Scotland we handed in our #Wildbottlesightings report to the government and co-launched the Scrapbook project which mapped litter hotspots from the air.
2019 - In January we welcomed back four women who had rowed the Atlantic raising funds for MCS - three in a trio and one solo. In April we launched our #BottlesforChange DRS campaign with a high-profile event in London led by Dragon’s Den and Ocean Ambassador, Deborah Meaden. Our Beachwatch data and innovative campaigning with ‘Have You Got Bottle?’ helped Scotland become the first nation in the UK to confirm the implementation of an all-inclusive money back recycling system, which will include plastic, metal and glass drinks containers. Calls by MCS and others for Loch Carron to become a permanent Marine Protected Area, following damage to flameshell beds by scallop dredging, were heeded by the Scottish Government in 2019. Seasearch information supported the case for emergency protection in 2017. In May we applauded the creation of 41 new Marine Conservation Zones in England after 21,000 of our supporters took part in last year’s MCZ consultation.
Actions you can take
- Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2019
- Organise a beach clean
- Take part in our latest campaigns
- Visit the beachwatch website
- Join a beach clean
Did you know?…
Globally, plastic litter has reached every part of the world’s oceans
UK seas and shores are places for leisure, sport, and holiday destination for millions annually
UK Seas provide us with resources from fish to renewable marine energy
Why not join a beach clean ... or organise one?
To date, our beach clean volunteers have removed 6 million pieces of litter from our beaches and collected marine litter data to support our campaigns for cleaner seas and beaches.Learn more and join a beach clean