Staff from the North Carolina Coastal Federation presented on the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project and development of a statewide marine debris strategy at the 2017 North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium on Oct. 16 and 17.

The symposium drew a crowd of more than 60, said Lisa Rider, deputy director of Onslow Solid Waste & Landfill. Rider said the big focus of the symposium was waste reduction and recycling, especially education on which items can be recycled. She said recycling is very much related to marine debris.

“By keeping materials in the collection system, whether that is in a recycle bin or trash can, it keeps those items off our beaches and out of the ocean,” Rider said. “By providing more waste and recycling infrastructure in coastal communities, this provides more opportunities for those materials to be managed properly.”

Plastic bag recycling was also a big topic of the symposium, including ways to reduce, reuse and recycle those bags.

Attendees also went to panels focused on policy and partnerships, marine debris education and outreach, debris removal, and how stormwater management techniques, such as rain gardens, can serve as tools for trapping land-based litter and allowing for easier debris management. Sara Hallas, coastal education coordinator for the federation’s Wanchese office, presented on the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project during the debris removal panel.

On the second day, the federation was joined by Gloria Putnam, coastal resources and communities specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant, and Paula Gillikin, site manager for the North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve (NCNERR) for a stakeholder work session on the development of a marine debris reduction and removal plan for the state coast. Gillikin is serving as the facilitator for the stakeholder group.

Those who attended the work session included nonprofits, county big sweep coordinators and even waste reduction employees from inland counties.

“Though this marine debris strategy will focus on the coast, attendees from inland counties recognized that coastal debris can originate from inland areas,” said Rachel Bisesi, coastal education coordinator for the federation’s Ocean office.

During this session, the federation and partners went over a draft of a prepared assessment on the current marine debris reduction activities in the state, what the most prominent threats are and what the draft goals of the plan are.

Members of the stakeholder group also discussed the results of a survey that called on marine debris stakeholders to provide feedback on the state of marine debris and how reduction efforts could improve. A total 111 people responded to the survey.

According to survey results, there are five types of marine debris that are of top concern in North Carolina: consumer debris, lost fishing gear, abandoned and derelict vessels, storm debris and unmaintained structures (such as docks and bulkheads.) Almost 75 percent of respondents are focused on managing consumer debris, or man-made items found on beaches and near-shore environments that do not belong there.

“The goals of the assessment is to understand the scope of the marine debris problem in the state and come up with a team of people who will help develop the state marine debris strategy, which will include action items for tackling marine debris,” Hallas said.

Survey respondents will be invited to participate in a workshop for developing the plan, which is scheduled for early next year. The stakeholder team is planning to present a draft of the strategy at the 2018 Marine Debris Symposium.

In addition to the marine debris reduction plan work group, three other committees were formed during the symposium: a policy work group, a coastal waste reduction and recycling work group and a marine debris removal committee.

“The vision is for these committees to ensure that stakeholders are engaged throughout the year and not just at the symposium,” Rider said. “This is also a great way for stakeholders to collaborate on solutions that will improve our coastal communities both now and into the future.”

For questions about the strategy development, contact Sara Hallas at 252-473-1607. To stay updated on the federation’s marine debris reduction efforts, visit