Removing Hurricane-Deposited Marine Debris from Mangrove Shorelines & Developing a U.S. Virgin Islands Marine Debris Action Plan

Volunteers stand together in a large group and smile for a picture.
Volunteers at a Great Mangrove Cleanup which attracted 126 volunteers to clean vulnerable mangrove shorelines in the St. Thomas East End Reserves in the U.S. Virgin Islands (Photo: mark Grimes).

This project will remove hurricane-deposited marine debris from vulnerable mangrove shorelines, through a series of cleanups called “Great Mangrove Cleanups”, in marine protected areas and NOAA Coral Reef Program Priority Areas on St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Type of Project: Removal

Region: Florida and Caribbean

Project Dates: September 2019 - August 2021

Who is involved?
The University of the Virgin Islands’ Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program Removal Grant, will work to remove hurricane-deposited marine debris from vulnerable mangrove shorelines, through a series of cleanups called “Great Mangrove Cleanups” in marine protected areas and NOAA Coral Reef Program Priority Areas on St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The project will also work to build capacity within the U.S. Virgin Islands to address future marine debris challenges by developing a territorial Marine Debris Action Plan with stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and non-governmental organizations. 

What is the project and why is it important?
Hurricanes Irma and Maria produced substantial amounts of marine debris when they struck the U.S. Virgin Islands in September 2017. Much of the debris was deposited in the mangrove shorelines, where it still remains today. This debris will continue to put vulnerable or sensitive habitats at risk. This project will work to remove over 12,000 pounds of hurricane-deposited marine debris from approximately 5 miles of mangrove shoreline. 

This project will also increase capacity to address marine debris issues and challenges through the creation of a Caribbean Marine Debris Action Plan. This Action Plan will be a living policy document that will coordinate and prioritize marine debris prevention, removal, and research activities across the U.S Virgin Islands. Once completed, the Action Plan will act as a guide to measure progress toward addressing the marine debris problem in the U.S. Virgin Islands.