How will North Carolina’s ocean be impacted by climate change?

Commercial and recreational fishermen are already seeing the impact of climate change as rising ocean temperatures cause species to migrate northward to cooler waters and as rising seas threaten key spawning and nursery habitats. Warming waters have also allowed new invasive species like the lionfish, a poisonous and aggressively-feeding species native to the warm tropical waters of the Indian and South Pacific Oceans, to establish themselves off the North Carolina coast, where they eat or starve out local fish, disrupt commercial fishing, and can threaten the tourism industry.

Blue Crab
Studies show that even a 5 degree increase in summer water temperatures would be enough to eliminate eelgrass through much of its North Carolina range, with serious impacts for blue crabs, bay scallops, and other animals that depend upon it.

Fishy Business

North Carolinians have always had a special relationship with the ocean. North Carolina is known for its seafood. Shrimp, blue crabs, stone crabs, bay scallops, clams, oysters and fish are harvested from inshore waters. Millions of tourists visit each year to relax on our pristine beaches, explore our abundant marshes and wetlands, marvel at the largest sand dunes in the country, and learn about our rich maritime history. But North Carolinians must now wonder: Will climate change make seafood scarce and our beaches unsafe?

Scientists need more observational data to find out how the ocean is responding to climate change. Check out these citizen science projects for some ideas about how you can help collect valuable ocean data and raise awareness about marine animals and habitats in North Carolina.

Get Involved

Earthdive Help protect the health and diversity of our oceans by sharing information about what you see while scuba diving, snorkeling, or swimming in the ocean.

Jellywatch Report sightings and submit your photos of jellyfish, red tide, squid, or other unusual marine life.

North Carolina Sea Turtle Project Help monitor sea turtle activity along the entire coast of North Carolina.

Oyster Spat Monitoring Project Track oysters along the North Carolina coast and collect information about the local environment, including salinity, air and water temperature.

REEF Volunteer Survey Program Identify fish, turtles, and marine invertebrates while enjoying a swim in the ocean.

Learn More

Want to learn more about the impacts of climate change on North Carolina’s ocean? Check out these resources.