Debris Removal Leaves Weeks Bay Cleaner and Safer

The Takeaway: Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve worked with partners to haul away hazardous abandoned boats and other marine debris while raising boat owners’ awareness.

Abandoned and poorly maintained boats can leak pollutants and crush the life out of delicate marsh grasses. Alabama partners worked together to identify and remove large pieces of marine debris and five derelict vessels from Weeks Bay. Now a “Derelict Is Dangerous” campaign is raising boaters’ awareness of the problem. This progress was made possible by the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Weeks Bay Foundation, grants from NOAA and the state, and other partners.

Keeping Weeks Bay’s beaches and waterways attractive and free of debris is a compelling economic issue for the surrounding Baldwin County. In 2016, the county’s ocean economy reported more than $522 million in gross domestic product and paid out more than $253 million in wages, according to a NOAA report.

Volunteers on a yearly, kayak-based cleanup of the bay marked large pieces of debris that needed to be hauled away. Staff members from the research reserve and foundation identified the vessels, and a contractor used heavy equipment to remove the debris. The outreach campaign reaches Gulf Coast boat owners with information on maritime laws as well as ways to prepare for storms and prevent and report marine debris.

Supporters included a NOAA grant through the Community-Based Marine Debris Removal program and outreach funding from the Alabama State Lands Division. (2019)

More Information: When Vessels Become Marine Debris

Partners: Alabama Department of Conservation and National Resources, NOAA National Marine Debris Program, Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Weeks Bay Foundation