Derelict is Dangerous & Weeks Bay Cleans It Up
Volunteers restore a damaged shoreline following the removal of a derelict vessel at Alabama’s Weeks Bay Reserve.
For volunteers like Nancy Tuttle, keeping Alabama’s Weeks Bay clear of debris is just good common sense. “Weeks Bay, its rivers, and ultimately the Gulf are the lifeblood of our area,” she says. “Almost everyone I know swims, boats, fishes, or otherwises uses these waterways. I’m on the water at least three or four times a month. For me, this is my home, and I like to keep it clean.”
Nancy supports the efforts of the Weeks Bay Reserve and partners to remove derelict and abandoned vessels and raise boat owners’ awareness of the danger debris poses. Left alone, such debris damages valuable habitats and fisheries and impairs the appearance, safety, and navigability of waterways. For the residents of Alabama’s Baldwin county—who rely on their ocean economy for more than $522 million in gross domestic product and $253 million in wages—keeping Weeks Bay clean is vital.
Nancy Tuttle at a volunteer-led clean-up at Weeks Bay Reserve help identify large marine debris for removal.
Volunteers like Nancy participate in annual, kayak-based cleanups where they mark large pieces of debris that need to be hauled away. Weeks Bay Reserve staff and Weeks Bay Foundation members identify the vessels and work with a contractor to remove the debris.
Not only did volunteers aid in the removal of the debris, they replanted one of the shorelines to restore it after the vessel was removed. Stabilized shorelines buffer and protect communities from flooding and storm surge: a similar volunteer-planted shoreline at Apalachicola Reserve withstood Hurricane Michael in 2018.
One of five derelict vessels—some of which had been in the water for decades—that was removed from Weeks Bay Reserve earlier this year.
The Weeks Bay Reserve developed an ongoing “Derelict is Dangerous” campaign to raise boaters’ awareness of the problem with the help of a grant from NOAA’s Community-Based Marine Debris Removal program and funding from the Alabama State Lands Division. The campaign provides Gulf Coast boat owners with information on maritime laws, storm preparation, and ways to prevent and report marine debris.
“People know that trash in the environment is bad, but they may not have a complete understanding of the impacts to habitats, marine life, and even human health,” says Angela Underwood, education coordinator at Weeks Bay Reserve. “That’s what makes outreach like this so vital.”
The Reserve has educated hundreds of community members on the dangers of marine debris and abandoned vessels via outreach events and signage related to marine debris at marinas, environmental centers, and boat ramps throughout Baldwin County.
A replanted site at the Weeks Bay Reserve.