SC Sea Grant Removes Abandoned Vessels in Charleston Harbor
ADVs rest in Charleston Harbor Watershed.
ADVs rest in Charleston Harbor Watershed. Credit: SC Sea Grant

South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium and the NOAA Marine Debris Program removed derelict vessels and other marine debris using community-based initiatives.

Project Dates: July 2014 - June 2016

What’s the project?

The presence of abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) in South Carolina’s coastal waterways is a chronic problem that negatively impacts coastal ecosystems and navigational safety. Specifically, ADVs can cause scarring or damage to salt marsh and oyster habitat – both recognized as essential fish habitat by the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council.

In an effort to tackle this issue, the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium removed ADVs from the Charleston Harbor watershed. In addition, approximately 15 tons of marine debris (primarily unwanted fishing gear) were collected and disposed of during three county-wide Clean Marine events. These events were open to all members of the public as a preventative approach to mitigating the amount of marine debris that winds up in tidal creek salt marsh and waterways in the Charleston Harbor Watershed.

Who is involved?

With support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, the Consortium partnered with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control - Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (SCDHEC-OCRM). Moreover, the City of Charleston and Charleston City Marina assisted with the derelict vessel coordination, salvage bid, and removal process.

What does it accomplish?

The Consortium and SCDHEC-OCRM removed 13 derelict vessels weighing approximately 22-26 tons from the Charleston Harbor watershed, improving both the safety of navigable waterways and the health of essential fish habitat. It also prevented approximately 15 tons of unwanted fishing/boating gear and other marine debris from entering the Charleston Harbor Watershed through county-wide training and disposal opportunities.

This project built upon a previous Consortium and SCDHEC-OCRM initiative funded by the NOAA MDP in 2009. That effort increased awareness regarding the impacts of large marine debris (including derelict vessels), engaged a community of volunteers through Clean Marine events and online marine debris reporting, and developed outreach materials.

What is something unique about the project?

The GIS-based methods used to prioritize vessels for removal were new and developed explicitly for this project. As an offshoot of this effort and with alternative funding, SC Department of Natural Resources restored sites damaged by ADVs using recovered derelict crab pots to build oyster reefs.