Mar 18, 2021

OBX Environmental Conservation Efforts: Keeping the Outer Banks Beautiful

From the Ocean to the Sound and Everything In Between

As the area grows into a popular vacation destination, environmental conservation on the Outer Banks is more critical than ever. Luckily, many local organizations tirelessly work day in and day out to protect our delicate coastal ecosystem. The following are some of the incredible groups committed to preserving the Outer Banks’ natural resources, from the ocean to the sound, and everything in between.



The Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (N.E.S.T.) is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of Outer Banks sea turtles and other protected marine wildlife. Through research, rescue, and rehabilitation efforts, N.E.S.T. plays a big part in understanding sea turtles and their habitats on the OBX, from Carova to South Nags Head. Their program efforts include ATV beach patrols that identify sea turtle nests, nest and hatchling protection, stranded sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, and support of sea turtle research. 

Through their education efforts, N.E.S.T. brings sea turtle awareness to the public. They have suggestions for what to do if you see a sea turtle or hatchlings on the beach (call their hotline), as well as suggestions like turning ocean-side lighting off during hatching or nesting events. N.E.S.T. works closely with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission as well as the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

N.E.S.T. hotline (252) 441-8622
Manteo NC Aquarium Roanoke Island
NC Aquariums sea turtle release

North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island

The NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island focuses on education and conservation of living species and their habitats throughout the Outer Banks. Exhibits allow visitors to view and learn about animals that live in the ocean as well as inland coastal areas. The large Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit includes sharks and other fish, as well as an interactive Gulf Stream exhibit that is popular with little ones. 

Sea turtle conservation is on full display in the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rehabilitation (STAR) Center. Aquarium visitors have the opportunity to walk into a fully operational sea turtle hospital. Aquarium staff works closely with N.E.S.T. volunteers to assist injured or cold-stunned sea turtles. Many sea turtles have been successfully treated at the STAR center and released back into the ocean. 

Plan Your Visit to the Aquarium
Corolla Wild Horses
Corolla Wild Horses

Corolla Wild Horse Fund

The Colonial Spanish Mustangs roam freely on the 4×4 beaches, their permanent sanctuary. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund was established to protect, conserve, and responsibly manage the herd. The most important mission of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund is to keep the horses safe, which involves putting significant effort into educating the public. County ordinances are in place to keep the horses safe, such as staying 50 feet away from the horses at all times and do not feed the horses under any circumstances. 

The Corolla Wild Horses are a beautiful sight to behold, for locals and visitors alike. It’s important to remember that they are wild animals. Contact the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, or Currituck County Dispatch if after hours (252) 232-2216  if you see a horse that appears sick or injured. Alert Currituck County Dispatch immediately if you see a person or group harassing or feeding the horses. 

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has a gift shop conveniently located in Corolla Village. Gift shop profits go directly to the care of the horses.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund (252) 453-8002

Better Beaches OBX

A true grassroots organization, Better Beaches OBX was started to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the beaches in relation to protecting the local economy. The coastline must be protected and maintained in order for people to live in and visit the Outer Banks. Better Beaches OBX regularly focuses on sand dune preservation, collecting Christmas trees after Christmas and distributing them along the beach to fortify the dunes. They also plant dune grass at various locations to help stabilize the sand dunes. 

Learn more about Better Beaches
jennettes pier

Jennette’s Pier

Jennette’s Pier is committed to conserving natural resources. Their facility was designed with renewable energy in mind. The facility is LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified, as you’ll notice the wind turbines upon arriving at the pier. Three wind turbines and a photovoltaic solar system produce electricity for the facility. They also have a reclaimed water plant and geothermal HVAC system, among other LEED efforts. Recycling is also a priority at Jennette’s Pier, as they collect and recycle items that are typically not recyclable. 

The fishing is environmentally conscious on the pier too. Pier staff regularly educate anglers on the proper techniques to safely catch and release fish. 

Visit Jennette’s Pier

Beach Clean-Ups


OBXC4’s mission is to preserve the Corolla Coast. They focus on keeping Corolla beaches clean, as well as dune health. Removing trash from the beaches is essential to keeping marine life safe. Donations go toward materials needed to keep Corolla beaches clean. 


OBX 5 Minute Beach Cleanup

OBX 5 Minute Beach Cleanup’s mission is simple: even five minutes of cleaning up trash makes a difference. What started as a movement to encourage others to pick up trash every time they go to the beach has evolved into an organized cleaning effort, thanks to social media and a team of volunteers. As it grew in popularity on social media, local businesses got involved, offering prizes to those that participated in the cleanups. Pop-up beach cleanups helped to get visitors involved that may not have seen the cleanup location announced on social media. Stay tuned to OBX 5 Minute Beach Cleanup’s Facebook page for cleanup dates, times, and locations. 


Surfrider Foundation, Outer Banks Chapter

The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the ocean, waves, and beaches worldwide, and the Outer Banks Chapter focuses on all aspects of beach preservation. In addition to regular meetings and events, the Surfrider Foundation Outer Banks Chapter coordinates the Adopt-A-Beach program on the OBX to get local businesses and organizations involved with regular beach cleanups. They also encourage Solo Beach Cleanups if meeting up with a group for a beach cleanup is not possible. 


leave only footprints

Learn More About OBX Conservation

We’ve highlighted a handful of organizations committed to environmental conservation on the Outer Banks, but there are many, many more. Take a walk through Nags Head Woods Preserve. Enjoy a kayak or stand-up paddleboard tour at Pine Island Audubon Center. Stop by the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education in Corolla.

Courtney Wisecarver

Courtney Wisecarver

Mar 18, 2021

Send this to a friend