OCEAN — Taking out the trash that litters and degrades the North Carolina coast is the goal of a new action plan developed by a diverse group of partners. Called the North Carolina Marine Debris Action Plan, it includes a number of tangible steps that need to be taken over the next five years to both prevent and remove marine debris along the coast. The plan was developed by the North Carolina Coastal Federation, N.C. Coastal Reserve, N.C. Division of Coastal Management, N.C. Sea Grant, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch and the N.C. Marine Debris Symposium. An evaluation of past and current attempts to reduce marine debris on North Carolina’s coast as well as stakeholder input provided during workshops, professional meetings and online surveys were used to develop the plan.

“The problem of marine debris is widespread and persistent along our coast,” said Sara Hallas, a coastal education coordinator with the federation. “It is so bad in some places after recent hurricanes that you can walk over salt marshes on washed up docks and not get your feet wet,” she said.

In 2019, nearly 400,000 pounds of trash was removed by paid contractors from coastal waterways and marshes. This trash included hazardous materials such as chemically treated dock debris, abandoned boats and household chemicals.

“The plan provides a list of actions that need to be taken over the next five years in an effort to create a North Carolina coast that is free of marine debris,” said Hallas.

The plan will be used by a leadership group that will encourage that the actions listed in the plan are taken. This includes working to obtain better construction practices to reduce marine debris caused by storms and flooding, expanded volunteer cleanups, dedicated funding to hire contractors to clean up our public waterways and lands on an annual basis, prevention and removal of abandoned vessels, and strategic research and monitoring to evaluate progress in reducing debris over time. The plan also calls for the development of a new public awareness and education strategy that will use existing resources to target key audiences that can help reduce marine debris within N.C.

The plan will be presented at the N.C. Marine Debris Symposium that is being held this week in Beaufort. The Action Plan will be complementary to the Southeast Regional Marine Debris Plan, coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program.

The full N.C. Marine Debris Plan is available now and can be accessed at nccoast.org/actionplan.

For more information on the N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan please contact Sara Hallas at 252-473-1607 or sarajh@nccoast.org.