Bathing water quality varies from year to year as a result of changes in weather, with heavy rain affecting runoff from the surrounding agricultural areas. Livestock slurries and manure, if applied inappropriately, can be washed into rivers and watercourses and end up in the sea. Sewage that has not been given adequate treatment or dilution can also result in water quality problems. Bathing water quality is one of the UK Government's indicators of sustainable development.
Adopt-a-Beach is an initiative organised by the Marine Conservation Society, involving individuals, groups and communities in caring for their coastal environment. Beach cleans and surveys aim to monitor litter throughout the year and help to reduce rubbish ending up on our shores from its source.
The Blue Flag campaign recognises beaches throughout Europe which meet strict criteria relating to both water quality and surrounding beach area. Blue Flag status is awarded for one year to those beaches meeting high standards of facilities, public awareness, bathing water quality and other environmental issues.
The Good Beach Guide is published by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) - the UK charity dedicated to the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife. It is the biggest and best beach guide available with a description, photo and map for each of 1,200 beaches in the UK and Ireland.
The coasts of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, areas of the Bristol Channel and the western approaches of the English channel are extremely important in terms of their wealth of dolphins, whales and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans). Twenty different cetacean species (out of the 35 recorded in European waters) have been sighted in these areas since the beginning of the century. They also form important whale migratory routes (Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society, 2003).
Every year, hundreds of cetaceans are stranded on UK shores, the majority of which are dead. Records are kept of all reported strandings, which are vital in increasing understanding of these species and how they can be better conserved in the future.