Who is to blame? Just look in mirror
LET's get a few facts out of the way first.
Northern Ireland boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Ballycastle with its stunning views of Rathlin Island; the long sandy stretch of Portrush with its striking coastal vista, Whiterocks, a must for tourists; and Benone with 300,000 summer visitors and a record 23 consecutive Blue Flags, to name just a few.
The number of beaches around the island of Ireland which have received the coveted Blue Flag this year has dropped by 15% compared to 2012-13, 13 beaches down on 83. Admittedly, the classification of the bathing water is now based on a 2006 directive, with higher standards than the 1976 one used up to now, and is more costly to strive towards, as Limavady Borough Council has discovered, having spent around £3,000 a month on cleaning up waste dumped by careless visitors on its seven miles of golden sand.
The pollution of our beaches and our waters is caused by many factors including debris brought to the shore and sea with sewage, storm waters and winds; flotsam brought about by material, often deadly, lost at sea in bad weather and, perhaps the biggest culprit, industrial waste (the most persistent and frequent polluters of the UK's rivers and beaches are the nation's 10 biggest water companies, an investigation revealed last week).
But you and I must bear some of the responsibility, with the mountains of rubbish we discard day in, day out along our coastline, discarded as if it will somehow vanish into thin air.
Litter in the sea has been a growing problem the world over for decades. We are all too familiar with pictures of turtles wrapped in broken plastic and seabirds with beaks bound by bits of string.
We've all had a great summer – and hopefully it's not over yet – but it has been at a price, and you and I are annually pushing up that exorbitant cost. We are losing the fight for the ocean that covers 71% of our planet, vital to life, and that is catastrophic for future generations.
We are all to blame. Every one of the pieces of rubbish per kilometre found by the Tidy NI survey originated with us discarding our litter somewhere other than in a bin.
Litter and sewage pollution is not only an eyesore but is also a danger to the amazing wildlife in our seas and on our beaches.
So, let's buck up and bin it – and give future generations their chance to enjoy the boundless beauty of our coastline.