Our Goal: Ensure the Coast is Free of Marine Debris
Marine debris results from storm-damaged docks, houses, and yards; lost fishing gear; poorly managed construction sites; abandoned boats; plastics contained in wastewater and stormwater discharges; and careless littering.
The Coastal Federation partnered with community groups, academia, and government agencies in 2020 to develop and adopt the N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan to both clean up and prevent debris large and small.
The Coastal Federation will work for the reduced use of single-use plastics, advocate for more storm-resilient building and maintenance practices for docks and piers, and promote improved treatment and disposal of wastewater and stormwater to reduce the number of microplastics being discharged to coastal waters.
We also partner with state and local partners to continue to mobilize fishers and contractors to remove tons of debris, lost crab pots, and abandoned vessels. This work is supported with a $500,000 appropriation from N.C. General Assembly adding to the over 2 million pounds of debris removed since 2019.
We also continue to partner with federal, state, and local agencies to refine programs to reduce the number of abandoned boats and debris along our coast and conduct extensive education and outreach about the importance of marine debris prevention and improved understanding through research.
Tons of marine debris collected since 2019:
tons in Carteret County
tons in Onslow County
tons in Brunswick County
tons in New Hanover County
tons in Pender County
Large-Scale Debris Cleanup
In the wake of several devastating hurricanes, stakeholders developing the Marine Debris Action Plan for North Carolina began focusing on the significant number of abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) and large-scale marine debris deposited by the storms in our estuaries, islands, and wetlands. The debris is made up of materials from docks, piers, houses, and other coastal structures, including pressure-treated and creosote lumber, plastic and polystyrene floats, building materials, household trash, and lost fishing gear. The need for large-scale, coordinated cleanups became very apparent, launching the first clean-up project in 2019.
Abandoned and Derelict Vessels
N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission Empowered and Funded to Take Action on ADVs
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) was appropriated $1 million from the North Carolina General Assembly in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2022 to address and remove abandoned and derelict vessels across the North Carolina coast. In partnership with the Division of Coastal Management and the Federation, a full-scale collaborative effort was conducted to address the removal of these vessels. The Federation is partnering with WRC to engage legislative staff and members in promoting a permanent abandoned and derelict vessel program. Legislative language was passed in early July 2020 allowing WRC the authority to inspect, investigate, and remove abandoned and derelict vessels under Section 2.1 of S.L 2019-224. Vessels that have been identified as abandoned or derelict are maintained on a state database and prioritized for removal. WRC maintains a map of ADVs and provides an email to report ADVs: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With funding from state appropriations, WRC has removed 159 vessels since 2021.
Lost Fishing Gear Recovery
Every year, crab pots and other fishing gear are lost in our sounds. The Federation and local partners work to remove these pots, which are hazardous to boats and marine life. Since 2014, the Federation has led the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project in an effort to remove lost crab pots from North Carolina sounds.
Resilient Docks & Piers
Over 85% of the debris removed from North Carolina’s estuaries between 2019-2022 was the result of damaged and/or lost docks, piers, boat houses, and similar structures. New standards for the design and construction of residential docks and piers have been developed to help reduce damage, losses, and marine debris.
Microplastics pose many risks to both humans and wildlife. Because of their small size, many animals mistake microplastics for food. From the tiniest zooplankton to the largest of whales, microplastics have been found in virtually every known marine organism. Even oysters and other shellfish have been found to contain microplastics. Microplastics have been found in waterways, soils, foods, and even in the atmosphere.
In addition to physical threats, chemicals, and toxic materials can attach to microplastic particles, furthering the risk to our environment, wildlife, and public health.
The Coastal Federation works with local volunteers to collect and remove marine debris throughout the coast. This helps protect local wildlife, salt marshes, and marine life. Every year, we host community organizations, volunteers, and school and college groups from around the country to come help keep the North Carolina coast safe and beautiful.
Along our coast, litter is dangerous to wildlife that mistake it for food or becomes entangled in trash items. It is also a hazard to humans and hurts our economy.
Marine Debris Resources
Resources from around the web:
You can help clean up our coast—from hurricane debris to microplastics.