A video in a series of “North Carolina Climate Stories,” produced by the University of North Carolina’s Institute for the Environment, tells the story of seafood market owner Willy Phillips, who sees the changing climate leading to biodiversity decreases “right under our noses.”

The video is the first in the series to be re-posted at Yale Climate Connections, in cooperation with the institute. The series, “a multimedia storytelling project about the daily lives of North Carolinians experiencing climate change,” is funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

The three-minute video, produced by David Salvesen of the institute, features field interviews with Phillips, who says “most of my knowledge is based on what I hear from other fishermen. They are seeing the fish move north.”

Willie Phillips
Seafood market owner Willie Phillips

Phillips, from Columbia, N.C., in the eastern part of the state, points in particular to snapper, grouper, tilefish, and sea bass – “all appear to be moving farther north.” He points to stresses in particular on striped bass, “not accustomed to now increasingly common high water temperatures . . . [which lead to] decreases in spawning capabilities.” With fishers long accustomed to fishing in the state now having to take their boats to New Jersey, Maryland, and farther north “to capture the same fish,” times are “stressful” for local families and communities, Phillips says.

Phillips also says local yards are being flooded more often “with puddles from underneath” as a result of rising sea levels. He points to more fields where “you can’t farm anymore” because of salt-water intrusion, saying the increased salinity is killing trees.

He used the term “cowardice” to criticize a refusal to take actions he says are most in the interest of future generations.

Willy Phillips: Seafood Market Owner from Climate Stories NC on Vimeo.

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...