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Volunteers clean up debris from burned, washed up shrimp boat

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- A Lowcountry-based nonprofit organization takes the time to clean up beaches that are hard to get to -- often only accessible by boat, such as Pritchard Island.

Most recently, Wounded Nature Working Veterans went to clean up after a shrimp boat that burned last summer. The two crew members on the boat were rescued, but the boat burned down to the water line and drifted to where it sat for nearly a year.

It was last July when the 67-foot shrimp boat burned off the coast of Fripp Island. It still had nets in the water and with sea turtle and sea bird nesting seasons beginning, the Department of Natural Resources contacted Wounded Nature Working Veterans about a cleanup.

"We went down there, we were able to cut the floats from the nets, remove most of the nets that were out there and other entanglement items," said Rudy Socha, the CEO of Wounded Nature Working Veterans. "This is one of the floats that was holding up a drift net. The interesting thing is that inside the ropes themselves there is actually stainless steel cable."

That stainless steel made it tough to remove the floats, but that was just part of the hard work. There was also a lot of trash left to be picked up.

"There is a lot of foam and a lot of debris that happens to be sitting on this island uninhabited, which should be a pristine island. It's covered in trash along the high tide line area," said Socha.

They were able to remove eight cubic yards of the foam, which is all the 12 volunteers could carry away on the three boats and took it to the Beaufort Recycling Center. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of debris left.

"It was very disappointing to have to leave some much trash behind but with most of our cleanups we are never able to go out to an area and remove all of the trash that is out there," said Socha.

Socha says the group would like to go back to clean up more on Pritchard Island, but aren't sure they will get the chance.

The limiting factors for this nonprofit organization are the number of volunteer boats that can go on clean-ups and money, but Socha believes the clean-up work they do is important.

"No one else is doing it. That is our biggest reason for going out there," said Socha. "There is no funding at the state or federal level and it needs to be done. It will benefit wildlife populations throughout and recreational fishing. We are losing miles of our coastline just to trash being out there."

For more on the organization or how you can get involved, click here.

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