Some 80 percent of Israel's unofficial beaches are "clean" or "very clean," according to Environmental Ministry tests conducted earlier this month. In June 2005, 70% were "dirty" or "extremely dirty." The ratings were released on Tuesday at a press conference in Tel Aviv marking the opening of this years' bathing season. "'Walking on a Clean Beach - This is our Country,' the program's slogan, needs to be on every Israeli child's lips. This way they can help their parents implement the message," Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra said. "The program has led to dramatic change in the cleanliness of unofficial beaches but there is still a lot more to do. I hope the local authorities keep improving the beaches even when the program ends at the end of this year," Ezra said. He praised Acre, Nahariya and Bat Yam for their clean beaches. The data is updated every two weeks as part of the three-year Clean Beach program the ministry initiated two years ago, with a total budget of NIS 9 million. The program was developed together with the Israel Nature and Parks Authorities. The country's Mediterranean shoreline runs 185 kilometers and there is another 14 kilometers on the Red Sea. Almost 150 km. of these shores are not official beaches. Rich with animals and plants, they constitute valuable cultural, economical and environmental resources. According to the Environmental Ministry's report, most unofficial beaches suffer from neglect and accumulations of solid waste, creating esthetic, health and safety hazards for the public and for other living creatures. The report stresses that these hazards are the result of an irresponsible public's behavior, people who spend time on these beaches and do not clean up after themselves. Some of the waste originates in neighboring countries. For two years, Clean Beach has encouraged 22 local authorities to carry out their responsibilities under the law on the beaches in their jurisdiction. The program has also tried to engage the public in cleaning the unofficial beaches and, finally, resources have been directed to publicity campaigns in the media and in educational institutions.