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.  The North Carolina Marine Debris Action Plan 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 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 in order to reduce marine debris caused by storms and flooding, expanding volunteer cleanups, dedicating funding to hire contractors to clean up our public waterways and lands on an annual basis, preventing and removing abandoned vessels, and conducting 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 was first presented to the public at the N.C. Marine Debris Symposium in Beaufort in early 2020. 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.


Rett Newton, mayor of Beaufort, offers his support for the marine debris reduction strategy for North Carolina.

February 2019: N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan Workshop

The North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Sea Grant, Onslow Country Solid Waste Department and North Carolina Coastal Reserve hosted the N.C. Marine Debris Action Planning Workshop, on Thursday, Feb. 28. The workshop was held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort.

The workshop was a collaborative participatory process that was organized in order to finalize marine debris reduction strategies and actions for a debris-free North Carolina coast. 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 plan will build upon work conducted at the February 2018 Debris-Free NC workshop as well as work on issues that are currently being addressed by North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Read more about this event here.

February 2018: Debris-Free NC Workshop

The development team hosted the Debris-Free NC workshop on Feb. 8. The workshop drew a crowd of 41 people from the host organizations as well as universities, municipalities, businesses, environmental organizations and state agencies.

The goal of the workshop was for participants to provide feedback on the current marine debris assessment work and use a collaborative process to develop strategies and actions that may be incorporated into a marine debris reduction plan.

October 2017: North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium

Staff from the North Carolina Coastal Federation presented on the development of a statewide marine debris strategy at the 2017 North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium on Oct. 16 and 17. The federation was joined by Gloria Putnam, coastal resources and communities specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant, and Paula Gillikin, site manager for NCNERR, for a stakeholder work session on the development of this plan.

Those who attended the work session included nonprofits, county big sweep coordinators and even waste reduction employees from inland counties. 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. They also presented on the results of the marine debris survey.