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Tons of junk the target of Harkers Island clean-up project

2017 Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project

A fleet of boats crewed by 72 commercial watermen spread out along the North Carolina coast in January and collected 4,304 lost crab pots as part of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project, which is a statewide effort to remove lost crab pots from
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A fleet of boats crewed by 72 commercial watermen spread out along the North Carolina coast in January and collected 4,304 lost crab pots as part of the Lost Fishing Gear Recovery Project, which is a statewide effort to remove lost crab pots from

The remnants of an old clam-growing operation have littered Harkers Island for decades. Thanks to a matching grant, a clean-up project is set to begin this fall.

The North Carolina Coastal Federation will match funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to pay for the $129,000 project. Debris – including cages, netting, and plastic – is tainting salt marshes, and seagrass and oyster beds, and storms have deposited tons of the material in marshes and along shorelines.

“It will be good to remove this junk, and restore these waters to their once pristine condition,” Todd Miller, the federation’s executive director, said in a news release. “More importantly, we will use this project to help ensure that existing and future shellfish farming operations don’t contribute to marine debris problems going forward.”

The federation will also use the funding to come up with best management practices shellfish growing and disposal of marine debris.

“Most growers do a good job of policing themselves by removing gear and cleaning up their operation, especially after storms,” said Bree Tillett, a coastal specialist for the federation. “We will look to develop some additional safeguards to ensure that a few bad actors don’t give the entire shellfish mariculture industry a bad name.”

In collaboration with North Carolina Sea Grant, the report said, a best management practices presentation on marine debris will be distributed to aquaculture lease applicants.

The federation will also use a series of shoreline clean-ups to help spread word about the project, which will include Duke University Marine Laboratory and the NOAA Beaufort Laboratory.

More information and progress on the project can be found at nccoast.org/marinedebris.

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