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 several 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 is being used by a leadership group that will implement the actions listed in the plan. This includes working to obtain better construction practices 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 is complementary to the Southeast Regional Marine Debris Plan, coordinated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program.

To ensure the maximum utility of the Action Plan for a diverse array of stakeholders, the detailed Action Plan roadmap was consolidated into a strategic plan with priority objectives found here: nccoast.org/strategicplan


2022 Accomplishments

Read about the N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan accomplishments in 2022.

2021 Accomplishments

Read about the N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan accomplishments in 2021.

2020 Accomplishments

Read about the N.C. Marine Debris Action Plan accomplishments in 2020.

2020 Updates: Steps Taken Toward Implementation

Shortly after the NC Marine Debris Action was released, steps were taken toward implementation. The Advisory and Implementation Committee met in February to discuss creating subcommittees to oversee the actions in each specific goal. These groups will meet periodically to share progress and updates will be reported back through the Advisory and Implementation Committee.

The Town of Beaufort became the first community to actively endorse the plan through the adoption of a proclamation that was approved by town commissioners in late February 2020. This Carteret County town has worked with state, county, and federal partners and organizations in recent years to remove litter from its waterways. Former Mayor Rett Newton took this additional formal action in support of the NC Marine Debris Action Plan with this proclamation.

During the event to announce the proclamation, Newton said that the town is working to clean up its waterways “as part of a North Carolina Clean Water Coastal Community initiative to improve the health and prosperity of our town” and is “already taking active measures in accordance with the action plan’s five primary goals.” The proclamation notes the challenges ahead but also acknowledges the partnership with county, state, and national organizations to continue the effort.

With the town’s proclamation, the Federation’s Executive Director Todd Miller said he was hopeful for a new tidal wave of local government support for the effort. “This is important not only to the people that come visit this area, but it’s important to the residents that we have an environment that’s safe and good for the wildlife and the people that are here.”

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

The 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 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 N.C. 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 reviewed a draft assessment of 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 the results of the marine debris survey.

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