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Marine Life & Conservation

The Marine Conservation Society wins charity award for work with Marks & Spencer



The Marine Conservation Society has won a prestigious charity award for it’s partnership with UK High Street giant, Marks & Spencer.

The charity’s part in the ‘Forever Fish’ campaign won the ‘Corporate National Partnership of the Year with a Retailer’ award in the 2013 Charity Times Awards.

The partnership, part of the retailers eco and ethical programme Plan A, is aimed at highlighting the issues facing UK seas to M&S staff and customers, and focused on engaging people in beach cleaning activities whilst also focussing on the importance of eating more sustainable seafood.

The partnership allowed MCS to create a national volunteering programme called ‘Sea Champions’ which, in the last two years, has mobilised almost 300 people to help highlight marine issues within their local communities and added a second national beach cleaning event to the MCS calendar – The Big Beach Clean-up – which involved thousands of M&S staff and customers cleaning hundreds of beaches. 107 of the cleans were led by M&S store staff, bringing a real community feel to the event which also highlighted the huge problems litter on beaches poses to both marine life and visitors to the seaside.

Vicki Cockburn, Corporate Fundraiser for MCS, says the partnership has brought marine issues to a wide and new audience: “Collectively, it has almost doubled MCS’ volunteer network from around 10,000 to well over 19,000 people and increased our outreach capacity and ability to engage with people at a local level in the UK. We are thrilled that the partnership has been recognised by the Charity Times. It’s fantastic that an environmental initiative has won and a clear sign that issues like marine conservation is of huge interest to the public.”

MCS says the ‘Forever Fish’ partnership, largely funded by M&S introducing a 5p charge for single use carrier bags in their food halls which led to a drop in the number being used in store by 78%, has been a success because of the hard work put in by staff from both organsiations. “The enthusiasm that we have experienced from people who were completely new to our work, especially the M&S store employees, has been overwhelming,” says Vicki Cockburn.

M&S Retail Plan A Manager Rachel Jane Barton says she’s delighted that their partnership with MCS has been recognised this way. “In our first two years we’ve had 15,000 people collecting over 28,000kg of litter from 113 beaches. At the same time we’ve engaged our customers in the importance of clean beaches and what that means for the health of our marine life and the future of the UK’s fish stocks. Next year will be bigger and better and MCS will continue to play an important role in our Plan A programme.”

MCS says the M&S investment in the Sea Champion volunteer scheme will leave a lasting legacy and the charity hopes the award will show that businesses and charities can work together to improve the state of the UK’s seas and beaches.

Marine Life & Conservation

Jeff chats to… Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust about the Big Shark Pledge (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to Paul Cox, CEO of the Shark Trust UK about the Big Shark Pledge.

The Big Shark Pledge aims to build one of the biggest campaigning communities in the history of shark conservation. To put pressure on governments and fisheries. And make the positive changes required to safeguard awesome sharks and rays.

Find out more at: and

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Marine Conservation Society to take legal action over ocean sewage spills



The Marine Conservation Society is announcing joining as co-claimant in a legal case against the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to protect English seas from sewage dumping.  

The legal case seeks to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan 2022, impose tighter deadlines on water companies and redevelop the Plan to effectively apply to coastal waters which are, currently, almost entirely excluded.  

Sandy Luk, Marine Conservation Society CEOUntreated sewage is being pumped into our seas for hundreds of thousands of hours each year; putting people, planet and wildlife at risk. 

We’ve tried tirelessly to influence the UK Government on what needs to be done, but their Plan to address this deluge of pollution entering our seas is still unacceptable. We owe it to our members, supporters and coastal communities to act, which is why we’ve joined as co-claimants on this case. We’re out of options. Our seas deserve better.”  

Launched and funded by the Good Law Project, the Marine Conservation Society will stand as co-claimants on the case with Richard Haward’s Oysters, and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm. 

Before reaching this point, the charity responded to a government consultation in March 2022 and met with DEFRA to express concern. In August 2022, the charity wrote an open letter to DEFRA outlining the ways in which the proposed Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan fails to protect the environment and public health from dumping raw sewage into the sea. However, the Plan hasn’t been amended and still fails to adequately address water companies’ excessive reliance on storm overflows and the harm their heavy use causes to our ocean. 

The plan virtually excludes most coastal waters (except for bathing waters) either directly or indirectly, with some types of Marine Protected Areas and shellfish waters totally excluded. 600 storm overflows are not covered at all by the Plan and will continue to – completely legally – be able to dump uncontrolled amounts of sewage directly into English seas and beaches. What’s more, the Plan lacks all urgency – with long-term targets set for 2050, and the earliest, most urgent targets not to be met until 2035.  

Meanwhile, Marine Conservation Society analysis finds that raw sewage is pouring into the ocean at an alarming rate. In total, there are at least 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England. These overflows spilt untreated sewage 41,068 times in 2021. Of these, almost half the overflows spilt more than 10 times in 2021, with an average of 48 spills for each of those overflows. Overall, in 2021, sewage poured into Marine Protected Areas for a total of 263,654 hours. 

According to DEFRA’s own latest assessments, only 19% of estuaries and and 45% of coastal waters are at ‘good ecological status’, with none meeting ‘good chemical status’, and three quarters (75%) of shellfish waters failing to meet water quality standards. 

Rachel Wyatt, Policy & Advocacy Manager for Clean Seas at the Marine Conservation SocietyUntreated sewage contains a cocktail of bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and microplastics. It’s nearly impossible to remove microplastics and ‘forever chemicals’ once in the environment. Due to their persistence, with every discharge, these pollutants will continue to increase, meaning eventually they will pass – or may have already passed – a threshold of harm.”  

In addition, it’s not just invisible toxins that are causing problems. In September this year at the charity’s annual Great British Beach Clean, sewage related pollution, such as wet wipes and sanitary products, were found on 73% of the beaches surveyed across England.  

A new DEFRA report, Ocean Literacy in England and Wales, shows that 85% of people say marine protection is personally important to them. Yet this is being ignored. 

Emma Dearnaley, Legal Director at the Good Law Project, said: “The Marine Conservation Society is at the forefront of tackling the ocean emergency and standing up for coastal communities impacted by climate change and pollution. We are delighted to have them on board as a co-claimant. 

“Good Law Project will work closely with the claimants, including the Marine Conservation Society, to put forward the case for more ambitious and urgent measures to reduce sewage discharges by water companies. These sewage spills are threatening human health, biodiverse marine life and the fishing industry. We believe that taking legal action now is vital to help safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come”. 

If the case is won, the Marine Conservation Society hopes to see the UK Government amend its Plan so that it meets the DEFRA Secretary of State’s legal obligations to protect the ocean and its inhabitants from raw sewage spills.   

For more visit the Marine Conservation Society website.

Header image credit: Natasha Ewins

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