CITY OF PLUS-HEAD – Climate change poses a significant threat to North Carolina’s fishing and coastal communities, including those in Carteret County, but there are ways to address it.
Officials discussed the challenges and potential ways to overcome them at “Changing Tides: The Effects of Climate Change on North Carolina’s Fishing Industries and Coastal Communities,” an expert panel discussion hosted by Carolina Public Press on Wednesday. The panel followed The RPC Five-Part Series, produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center, exploring how climate change affects fisheries.
The panel of seafood industry representatives, fishermen, marine scientists and others participated via Zoom and discussed how climate change threatens fishing of all kinds and coastal communities. that depend on it.
Rutgers University associate professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources, Dr Malin Pinsky, said fisheries are very sensitive to changes in water temperature, which are one of the effects of climate change.
“As the waters have warmed up, they retain less oxygen,” noted Dr. Pinsky.
One North Carolina fishery that has seen the effect of warmer waters drive away fish is the summer plaice fishery.
“The boats from Beaufort had to go as far north as New Jersey (to catch plaice),” said Dr. Pinsky. “Small boats cannot participate.”
Another effect of climate change is the increase in the number of tropical storms and worsening weather conditions. Storms can reduce access to fisheries and coastal communities by destroying infrastructure, such as public fishing docks, boat docks and coastal roads.
PPC contributing reporter Jack Igelman, who produced the Changing Tides series, said while living in western North Carolina, he was on vacation on the coast and saw fishing piers disappear. after damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. Mr. Igelman cited Atlantic Beach as an example of a coastal town that has lost public piers.
“Before there were three,” he says, “now there is only one because the others were hit by storms. It is certainly a loss of access (to fishing). I have a feeling that over the next five to ten years we will see more access issues.
Coastal residents and others have options in trying to mitigate or prevent the effects of climate change on fisheries and coastal communities. Leda Cunningham, East Coast agent for Pew Charitable Trust, who works in Morehead City, said one option is to restore and protect critical marine habitat for fishing, such as underwater vegetation.
“The steps we take to protect and restore habitat are also good for water quality,” she said. “North Carolina is a very special place, we have the second largest estuary in the country.”
Bringing together diverse groups of stakeholders – commercial and recreational fishers, coastal residents and non-coastal residents – to develop solutions is another important step.
Gullah / Geechee Nation Leader and Head of State Queen Quet said fisheries stakeholders must find common ground to develop solutions to climate change.
“When you can bring people together, away from the wharf, we can come up with things that benefit us all,” she said.
Public education on climate change is a key factor in addressing it. However, Sarah Mirabilio, fisheries extension specialist at NC Sea Grant, said one of the biggest challenges facing scientists trying to provide information is to “stay ahead of misinformation.”
Ms Mirabilio said that before the advent of social media and online coverage, there was more time to proofread and justify reports.
“I think this is the most difficult challenge for me,” she said. “People are bombarded with so much information that it is difficult to verify it. It is difficult for anyone in the education sector to disseminate their information.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email [email protected]thenewstimes.com; or follow us on Twitter at @mikesccnt.