Coastal Carolina Riverwatch officials met recently with leaders from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to discuss our collaborative work with the Division of Marine Fisheries and partners.
Secretary Elizabeth Biser, Chief Deputy Secretary John Nicholson, Division of Marine Fisheries Director Kathy Rawls, DMF staff and fellow non-governmental organizations joined together at the roundtable event.
The purpose of the meeting was “to introduce Secretary Biser to the key leaders of organizations that represent the varied and diverse stakeholders of the Division of Marine Fisheries.”
Coastal Carolina Riverwatch joined a small group of other non-governmental organizations to review primary goals, speak about how they interact with DMF, and share focus areas for the upcoming year.
Like the Division of Marine Fisheries, we are concerned about the growing number of water quality issues.
We work to protect and enhance the quality of water, thus protecting the marine fisheries and fisheries economy of eastern North Carolina.
The primary goals of Coastal Carolina Riverwatch:
• Elevate the voices from the coastal fishing community about specific water quality concerns that impact fisheries.
• Increase coastal ecology and water quality knowledge and educational opportunities for under-served coastal communities.
• Advocate for sustainable farmers and fisheries that support water quality improvements, while monitoring potential pollution sources and reporting results of studies that implicate polluters to the proper agencies.
• Facilitate the collaborative development of long-term solutions that prevent water quality pollutants including …
… Factory Farming and Industrial Agriculture Pollution
… Stormwater Pollution
… Industrial Pollution
… Plastics Pollution
… Waste Water Pollution
All of these pollutants are specific, and in-order or priority water quality concerns of our commercial and recreational fishing communities.
We accomplish these goals through strong advocacy, outreach and equitable education, regular investigative and emergency watershed monitoring, supporting environmental policy and statewide agency work for the water, assessing and researching water quality concerns from the voices of the coast, and by promoting citizen stewardship.
Our goals interact with the Division of Marine Fisheries in the following ways:
• The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries is responsible for the stewardship of the state’s marine and estuarine resources.
• Coastal Carolina Riverwatch works to protect these same resources in a supportive role through research, outreach, and advocacy.
• Like the Division of Marine Fisheries, we work extremely efficiently with the resources available to us. Our two person staff covers mainly the Onslow and Carteret County water bodies with our research and advocacy services, however like DMF, our WQ4F program is coast-wide.
• Like DMF, our work is coastal. Our goal to improve water quality for fisheries is directly inline and provides a support role with and for DMF programming.
• We often use DEQ and DMF data to ensure that our work is not duplicating other work, and that we are able to best utilize resources that are available to the public and magnify the impact of those resources to improve water quality.
Coastal Carolina Riverwatch’s focus for the coming year includes the following:
• Expand the Water Quality for Fisheries Program to provide services that have been both identified and prioritized by the Industry Working Group made up of both commercial and recreational fishermen. This will include a draft Study Bill supported by the collaborative work of our Industry Working Group. Additional proposed action items for 2022 are highlighted in our draft WQ4F Assessment document that will be published in early 2022.
We also want to mention that we are currently working on specific WQ4F actions that will be current in the coming year.
We are working to secure funding along with principal investigator Dr. Lee Ferguson. Dr. Ferguson is a Duke University Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and CCRW board member. Research in Ferguson laboratory is focused on development of methods for trace analysis of contaminants in the aquatic environment, in wastewater and drinking water.
A prioritized targeted research area has been identified in the Downeast area of Coastal North Carolina. We’d like to find out if contamination is happening, so that we can work towards a collaborative solution that benefits the entire community environment.
We are currently working on a collaborative statewide program studying micro-plastics in our waterways and implementing plastic debris collection and removal devices in pilot study locations and in partnership with local governments. We hope to expand this local government collaboration after this pilot program is complete.
In addition to this, we are also working collaboratively to properly fund plastic research that will identify the amount and types of plastic and potential leachate in targeted fish species.
These targeted water quality issues that we are focusing on are also highlighted in a WQ4F documentary film, to be released and available to use by the public in early 2022.
There will also be commercial and social media-use videos released targeting each of the top five water quality concerns priorities by coastal commercial and recreational fishermen.
Other focuses this coming year are to:
• Fund the Coastal Carolina Riverwatch’s Equity in the Environment Program that bridges the gap between coastal sciences, marine fisheries, and underserved communities in coastal North Carolina.
• Expand the Pure Farms Pure Waters Program that provides services to communities impacted by factory farming and industrial agriculture in coastal North Carolina. These communities include our military and fishing communities here in coastal North Carolina.
Both factory farming and industrial agriculture had been identified by the commercial and recreational coastal fishing community to be the top water quality issue accounting to our recent survey, partnered with ECU as a part of the WQ4F program.
Another focus in 2022 is Coastal Carolina Riverwatch’s North Carolina Marine Debris Symposium.
This event is based in NC, but has international interest and support. Our goal for 2022 is a Spring Plastic Pollution Policy Workshop co-presented by Duke Law and Policy, and the full Symposium in the Fall of 2022, with both in-person and virtual attendance available.
We expressed to Secretary Biser and staff how grateful we are for the support from many representatives of DEQ divisions that attend the NCMDS event.
We use the NCMDS to showcase marine debris prevention and removal efforts across the region, hear from best management practices from a global perspective, and conduct workshops with hands on waste auditing, policy development, and education programs with citizen science based curriculum.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to showcase our goals, how we collaborate with state and local government and other non-governmental organizations.
Lisa Rider is executive director of Coastal Carolina Riverwatch.