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Ocean & Coastal Resource Management (OCRM)

Marine Debris Initiative

With 2,876 miles of coastal shoreline, South Carolina's coast offers great opportunities for boating, fishing and recreation. Each year, over one million residents and 15 million visitors enjoy the life style our coast offers. Unfortunately, not everyone is mindful that their activities can contribute significant amounts of debris to our marine environment, which diminishes the beauty of our coast and creates hazards for animals and humans.

DHEC is leading the South Carolina Marine Debris Initiative to provide a cohesive framework that will help agencies and organizations establish partnerships, leverage resources, educate key populations and make a measurable difference in marine debris reduction. Marine debris is any man-made object discarded, disposed of, or abandoned that enters the coastal or marine environment. This includes everything from derelict boats to candy wrappers.

For many years, South Carolina state and local government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community groups have supported a variety of critical area marine debris-related activities. However, these activities have generally been organized independently and not undertaken or quantified to achieve coast-wide debris reduction goals. Under the framework of the Initiative, individual organizations - from state agencies to the smallest non-profits - will continue to undertake activities best suited to their abilities while working collectively towards the same overarching goals.

Impacts of Marine Debris

The impacts of marine debris can be highly visible or hidden and can range from simply ugly to deadly. Cigarette butts and plastic bottles on our beaches are a regular nuisance and can easily ruin a beautiful day in the sun. But it is what you don’t see that can be even more harmful.

Debris that washes into the ocean and waterways poses a significant danger to humans and animals. Dolphins, whales and turtles can easily get tangled in fishing gear and it may also surprise you what can be found in a sea turtle’s stomach – anything from plastic bags to styrofoam packing peanuts.

Debris that settles on the bottom of the ocean can destroy critical habitat while suspended debris can get wrapped around boat propellers or endanger the lives of recreational divers.

Keeping our coastal environment clean is everyone’s responsibility. Together, we must protect our coastal heritage by being more aware of the negative impact our litter and lost fishing gear can have on our environment and to take steps to remove debris.

Top 5 Ways You Can Reduce
Marine Debris

  1. Reduce the amount of plastic you take to the beach (food wrappers, utensils, etc.).
  2. Use a reusable bag to carry your belongings, food and litter to and from the beach.
  3. Recycle your bottles and cans!
  4. Collect any litter you see in your general area.
  5. Leave only footprints in the sand! Take all of your toys, garbage and recycling with you.

Related Programs

  • Adopt-A-Beach - A voluntary beach clean up program for businesses, community and civic organizations.
  • Abandoned Vessel Removal - With limited funding, DHEC works with local governments and marine contractors to reduce the number of derelict and abandoned vessels in coastal waterways.
  • Clean Marina Program - A voluntary program for coastal and inland marinas to be recognized for meeting specific environmental performance criteria.