In 2017, the North Carolina Coastal Federation was awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program to clean up abandoned mariculture gear near Harkers Island.
The project will remove tons of debris left behind from a clam-growing operation that went out of business decades ago. Plastic, netting, cages, buoys, pipes and ropes are creating navigation hazards, and are littering salt marshes, seagrass beds and oyster beds.
In November 2017, 52 volunteers from Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point participated in cleanup of the shoreline at the Harkers Island site. They helped remove approximately 3,000 pounds of debris that was blown ashore over years of storms. Some of the volunteers joined James Morris, ecologist for NOAA, on a boat to collect pilings and PVC piping at an offshore portion of the site. A local contractor, Brooks Dredging and Marine Construction Inc., provided a barge and disposal of the materials.
A final cleanup of the Harkers Island site will take place late summer of 2018 to remove any materials left behind after the contractor cleanup.
As part of this grant, the federation is conducting at least five shoreline cleanups within Carteret County. So far, about 100 volunteers have helped remove almost 5,000 pounds of litter from locations including Ward Creek Bridge, Hoop Pole Creek Nature Trail, Fort Macon State Park and Sugarloaf Island.
Brooks Dredging and Marine Construction, Inc worked for a full week in December to remove embedded aquaculture debris from public trust bottom. They removed 21 dump truck loads from the site, with a total weight of 590,000 pounds of sandbags, pilings and screens.
Duke Marine Lab Drone Monitoring
The Duke University Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing research group is monitoring the site for recovery of marsh and sea grass using fixed wing and rotor drones. The study should provide valuable methodology for differentiating artificial substrates from natural substrates using aerial imagery.
North Carolina Shellfish Mariculture Best Management Practices
While most shellfish growers are good stewards of the environment they rely on, storms and other disasters can lead to gear breaking loose into the marine environment. The federation is working with a team of experts to produce a set of voluntary Best Management Practices for the prevention of marine debris from shellfish mariculture operations. The document has received feedback from experienced and new shellfish growers. The full document and a fact sheet will be available at the end of 2018.