Hog Island Oyster Farm Workers at sunrise at Hog Island Oyster Farm on Tomales Bay in Marshall, California. © Remy Galvan Hale

Climate Change Stories

Uniting Shellfish Growers Around Climate: A Conversation with Sally McGee

Learn how the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition is lifting up growers' personal stories about the impacts of climate change.

As director of The Nature Conservancy's Northeast Marine Program, Sally McGee over the years has met a lot of people who make their livelihood from the sea. That includes shellfish growers, who have increasingly become concerned about the fate of their business in a changing climate.

In 2018, Sally and a core group of shellfish growers launched the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition in partnership with TNC.

We asked Sally about the coalition and its impact.

SGCC founding member Bill Mook with coalition project manager Sally McGee.
Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition Founding member Bill Mook with SGCC project manager Sally McGee © Garrett Martin

What is the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition?

Sally McGee:
The Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition is a partnership initiated by seven shellfish farms and The Nature Conservancy. Climate change poses a threat to the growers’ businesses and effective food production. Growers are seeing the impacts of climate change right now. Some are experiencing ocean acidification, others are affected by sea level rise. The Coalition acts to promote effective climate action by educating consumers, reaching out to policy makers, and advancing research.

How did the Coalition happen?

Sally McGee:
Bill Mook (Mook Sea Farm), brought the idea to TNC on behalf of his own farm and six other growers. They wanted a partner to help them tell their stories to a wide audience. We have worked with growers on restoration and science projects, and our 50 State Climate Strategy offered a framework for us to work with them in this new way.

How has the Coalition been received?

Sally McGee:
Bill Dewey (Taylor Shellfish), Bill Mook and I introduced the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition at the National Shellfisheries Association meeting in March. We had a more formal launch in April in New York . The Billion Oyster Project graciously let us use their Billion Oyster Party to talk to growers and the public. We’ve added many more growers (see list at right) to the Coalition and dozens more are interested in joining.

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What is involved in joining the Coalition?

Sally McGee:
The Coalition is open to businesses from all food sectors wanting to engage with consumers and policy makers to help chart America’s course towards a low carbon future. Prospective members can email me (smcgee@tnc.org) to learn more, determine if membership is a good fit and handle administrative requirements. All our members have agreed with certain principles on climate change:

  • Human impact on the Earth’s climate system is well documented, scientifically understood, and profound.
  • Taking action to address climate change is imperative to secure the viability of our businesses, our communities, and the natural resources they depend upon.
  • Improving people’s understanding of climate change and its impact on our businesses represent an important way to secure public support for clean energy policies.
  • Enacting policies that reduce carbon emissions and encourage low-carbon choices are crucial to a low carbon future.

What do the Coalition members do once they’ve joined?

Sally McGee:
Member input is critical to shaping our activities, including promoting policy positions, marketing materials, and events. Members also engage with the public and the media about climate impacts – especially at food industry events and festivals. Members may also talk with policymakers, not only going to their offices, but bringing them to farms to see first-hand what’s happening.

Is this going to have a positive impact on climate change?

Sally McGee:
Yes! Growers have real, front-line experience with climate impacts, and their stories compelling. Shellfish growers are part of treasured coastal communities, and their products are highly valued. Because our growing coalition has considerable reach and a powerful story to tell, we expect it will have significant impact.