WILMINGTON — Fishermen removed almost a ton of marine debris every day over a 63-day period in the marshes, tidal creeks, spoil islands, and waterways between the Surf City Bridge to New Topsail Inlet at the southern tip of Topsail Island.
Local fishermen took part in a project spearheaded by the North Carolina Coastal Federation to clean up the marshes and waters around Topsail Island. A two-year, $250,000 grant awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the fall of 2019 funded the project.
“Working with small skiffs and a crew of four, local fishermen scoured 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,” according to a release from the federation.
The total haul has included 62 tons over nine square miles that encompass the public trust areas of Banks Channel, the Intracoastal Waterway, and mainland creeks, according to Ted Wilgis, a senior coastal specialist with the federation. More than 35 tons have been removed from around Surf City Soundside Park, 4.75 tons from the Hampstead-Sloop Point boat access, and 21.75 tons from Topsail Beach, Wilgis said.
Crews are now moving south to areas around Wrightsville Beach and Masonboro Sound removing “large pockets of embedded trash and debris before the busy summer season arrives.”
“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,” Tracy Skrabal, southeast regional manager for the federation, said.
The project is a collaboration between the federation and the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, local governments, fishermen, and volunteers. The overall scope of the project will include Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties.
The clean-up work will be combined with efforts to create a set of marine construction best management practices to prevent future debris from littering the coastal waterways and marshes.
“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,” according to the release.