WILMINGTON – Under the leadership of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, over 45 tons of trash and debris was recently removed by local watermen from the coastal marshes and waters around Topsail Island. Funded through by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program’s Community- Based Marine Debris Removal Grant Program, the two-year grant of $249,657 was awarded to the North Carolina Coastal Federation in the fall of 2019 to remove debris littering the southeast coast.

Working with small skiffs and a crew of four, local fishermen scour the estuarine shorelines and into hidden high marsh areas to remove wood from damaged docks and piers, metal, construction and residential trash, chemicals, Styrofoam and abandoned boats — some of which still remains from Hurricane Florence. To date, nearly 9 square miles of water, marsh, tidal creeks and dredge spoil islands have been cleaned up from the Surf City Bridge to the end of Topsail Beach. Crews are now moving south to areas around Wrightsville Beach and Masonboro Sound, working to remove large pockets of embedded trash and debris before the busy summer season arrives.

The federation is partnering with the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, local governments, community fisherman and volunteers to get this massive project completed within Pender, New Hanover and Brunswick counties.

Clean up efforts will be matched with work to create a set of marine construction best management practices (BMPs) for preventing future littering of debris into these fragile areas. The federation will work with local experts and communities to collaboratively develop model building codes and construction specifications, with the goal of ensuring that docks and piers are built to better withstand the forces of future hurricanes. 

“We remain amazed by how much debris is out there largely embedded in our coastal environment. Much of this debris is hazardous to wildlife and fish and is an absolute navigational hazard to boaters,” said Tracy Skrabal, southeast regional manager for the federation. “Our partnership and support from NOAA’s marine debris program is helping us have a real impact and remove massive amounts of debris from our beautiful coast,” she added. 

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is the U.S. federal government’s lead for addressing marine debris. First authorized by Congress in 2006 through the Marine Debris Act and reauthorized in 2018 through the Save our Seas Act of 2018, the program promotes action to assess, prevent and reduce marine debris in our ocean, supports response actions needed as a result of severe marine debris events, such as hurricanes or tsunamis and leads federal agency coordination on marine debris issues through the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee. More information about the NOAA Marine Debris Program can be found here. For more information about the federation’s progress visit nccoast.org/marinedebris