A tide of filth is littering Dorset’s beaches and the unsightly mess can harm and kill some of our best-loved marine animals.

Volunteers are urgently being sought to turn the flow by taking part in the UK’s biggest beach clean and litter survey in September.

Last year 4,500 volunteers scoured 297 beaches and coves across the nation in the Beachwatch Big Weekend.

The Marine Conservation Society, which organises the clean-up, is hoping this year’s event will be even bigger and better and that more seashore will be spruced up and surveyed.

It’s not just unpleasant to look at and smell, it can cause the horrific deaths of seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales, who mistake marine litter for food or who become entangled by it.

A particular nuisance on Dorset’s beaches are tiny pieces of plastic called nurdles, many of which came from the wreck of the Napoli, and are being collected in a nurdle-o-meter at Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Fine Foundation Marine Centre at Kimmeridge.

Washed up and mistaken for fish eggs by surface feeding animals, seabirds eat them and feed them to their chicks, which then starve to death, while fish and turtles are also at risk.

“If you care about our amazing marine wildlife and are concerned about the growing tide of litter in the UK, this is your chance to take part in MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend and make a real difference,” said Emma Snowden, litter projects co-ordinator.

“The information you collect will help us tackle the main sources of litter and campaign to reduce the most common items ending up on our beaches and killing wildlife.”

The survey shows a 75 per cent increase in the amount of beach litter since the first clean-up in 1994, with plastic waste increasing by 121 per cent.

In 2009 more than 12,000 cotton bud sticks were found on UK beaches, along with 16,000 drinks bottles, 20,000 lids and 17,000 items of fishing litter.

“It’s shocking to think what you could feel between your toes, apart from sand,” said Emma, urging people to sign up for the event, which takes place during September 18 and 19.

You can register at mcsuk.org, where there is a petition to keep up pressure for an action plan, or 01989 567807.