FEWER pieces of rubbish are being picked up on Dorset's beaches - but the tide hasn't yet turned on the blight of marine litter.

Results of the Marine Conservation Society's (MCS) annual beach clean out today show the situation appears to be improving locally compared with previous years - but levels for Dorset are still way above the national average.

And it comes as volunteers and authorities continue to clean up following severe storms which have thrown up cargo debris, dead seabirds and other assorted marine litter onto beaches.

Thousands of volunteers hit the UK coast last autumn for the MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend 2013.

The 20th anniversary clean-up saw 2,309 items of litter found on every kilometre cleaned - the highest in Beachwatch history.

In Dorset, 5,484 items of litter were found per km cleaned. Although this is more than double the UK average, it is less than the 6,606 figure for Dorset from 2012.

Fourteen local beaches were cleaned during Beachwatch 2013, an operation involving 216 volunteers and more than 170 bags collected with 12,340 individual bits of litter, weighing a total of 465kg.

Areas targeted last year included Chesil Beach at Portland where litter included fishing nets, barbecues, beer cans and plastics.

The same stretch has been blighted by storm debris this winter including items from the Svenborg Maersk container ship which lost cargo in the Bay of Biscay.

The Dorset Waste Partnership (DWP) has collected and disposed of nearly 10 tonnes of litter from the beach.

MCS Beachwatch Officer Lauren Eyles said: “We did see a lot of litter as a result of the storms and it highlighted the problem of litter as a long legacy.

“It brought communities together, particularly around Chesil.”

She said over the two decades the clean-up and survey has been running the amount of litter found on beaches nationwide has been steadily increasing, threatening the safety of beach visitors both human and animal.

MCS says urgent steps must be taken to reverse the rising tide of beach litter. It will be launching a campaign to change behaviour in a variety of areas from the plastics industry to manufacturing, retail to shipping.

MCS will be running beach cleans and surveys around the UK coast this spring and autumn.

The first big event is between April 24-20.

Find out more and register at mcsuk.org