How climate change affects North Carolina’s fisheries and the people who rely on them for a living.

Illustration by Mariano Santillan / Carolina Public Press

Warming temperatures due to human-produced carbon emissions are melting the world’s ice, leading to warmer seas, rising water levels, lower salinity, changing currents and more frequent and powerful storm systems that often strike and severely damage coastal areas. These conditions threaten to upset the balance of sea and estuary species on which fisheries depend. All of these factors create challenges for access for many North Carolina coastal residents whose jobs or food supply depend on what they catch. People dependent on the water, government officials and scientists are doing their best to adapt or encourage resilience. But the tides, they are a changing.

Changing Tides is a five-part in-depth series being published serially beginning Sept. 13, 2021. Changing Tides is made possible in part with support from the Pulitzer Center Connected Coastlines initiative, a nationwide climate reporting initiative in U.S. coastal states, and through the support of readers like you. You can support nonpartisan in-depth and investigative journalism in North Carolina from our nonprofit newsroom by becoming a member today.

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Scientist Jud Kenworthy examines seagrasses July 1 in Back Sound in Carteret County. Jack Igelman / Carolina Public Press

Lose the seagrass and lose the fisheries

Marine and estuary plant life on which North Carolina’s fish species depend are vulnerable to warming and rising seas, scientists say.

Cole Gibbs, first mate of the Salvation commercial fishing boat, sets a line in the Gulf Stream waters near the old Diamond Shoals lighthouse, roughly 14 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. The Gulf Stream waters near the old structure are frequented by commercial and recreational fishermen in search of the many amberjacks, barracuda, and other fish species that inhabit the area. Mark Darrough / Carolina Public Press.

Commercial fishing in NC adapts to threat of warming seas

Environmental changes are just one of many factors placing stress on the state’s commercial fishermen.

Dennis Scott fishes at Jeanette’s Pier in Nags Head on Aug. 28. Calvin Adkins / Carolina Public Press

Changing climate poses burden as people count on fishing

Extreme weather damages access points for coastal residents dependent on seafood, while warming seas shift the balance of life under the water.

Fish for sale and on display at a market in Morehead City in 2019. Jack Igelman / Carolina Public Press

Toxins and mislabeling threaten NC seafood

Algal blooms thrive in warming seas, but generate toxins that damage fisheries, likely contributing to declines in blue crabs.

A recreational fishing boat cruises along Croatan Sound, west of Oregon Inlet, in late July. Mark Darrough / Carolina Public Press

Seeking solutions for NC shoreline and fisheries

Projects focusing on coastal habitat resilience and regulations eying species restoration offer hope for fisheries despite climate change.



Follow the dynamic path of the coastal ecology and economy in North Carolina.

Raman Bhardwaj / Carolina Public Press
Raman Bhardwaj / Carolina Public Press


This series is produced by the news team of Carolina Public Press.
Reporting by Jack Igelman, with contributions from Calvin Adkins.
Photos by Mark Darrough, Calvin Adkins and Jack Igelman.
Illustration by Mariano Santillan.
Graphics by Raman Bhardwaj.
Editing by Frank Taylor and Laura Lee.