Removing Derelict Vessels and Marine Debris from Weeks Bay and Its Tributaries
Derelict vessel stuck in marsh.
This derelict vessel is smothering valuable marsh habitat. (Photo Credit: Weeks Bay NERR)

The Weeks Bay Foundation and Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve are working to remove several abandoned boats and large marine debris from Weeks Bay and its tributaries.The project will include an outreach component to help community members understand the dangers of derelict vessels and large-scale marine debris.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Gulf of Mexico

Project Dates: September 2018 – July 2019

Who is involved?
The Weeks Bay Foundation and Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant, are working to remove several abandoned boats and pieces of large marine debris from Weeks Bay and its main tributaries. This project is being implemented with additional funding from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Lands Division, and in partnership with Thompson Engineering.

What is the project and why is it important?
Every time there is a storm in coastal Alabama, it is common to see boats crashed or sunken in area waterways. These “derelict vessels” are not only an eyesore but pose long-term recreational and environmental hazards. Abandoned boats can block navigational channels, causing dangerous obstructions for other boaters. Derelict vessels degrade over time, becoming a source of marine microplastics and toxic materials. The vessels also can damage areas where they sink or are beached, crushing native marsh grasses and disrupting aquatic habitats.

This marine debris removal project will work with local contractors to remove five boats and large pieces of marine debris from the Weeks Bay Watershed.  The large marine debris will be identified by partners and volunteers as part of an annual kayak-based cleanup hosted by the Weeks Bay Foundation. In addition, to educate the community about the issues related to derelict vessels, the project team is developing a “Derelict is Dangerous” campaign. This outreach component will help Gulf Coast residents better understand their responsibilities as boat owners, the maritime laws surrounding abandoned boats, how to prepare for storm events, and how to report derelict vessels. It will also discuss the negative effects of large marine debris on Alabama’s waterways and coastal habitats and how people can prevent future marine debris.