Virginia's Tangier Island is seeing its land disappear in the face of climate change -and its fate could suggest how other threatened U.S. coastal islands may fare

James “Ooker” Eskridge’s family – like those of many of his neighbors – has lived on this isolated island in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay for generations, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

But its long traditions, which include crabbing and oystering in the surrounding waters, are under threat as Tangier Island gradually loses land as rising seas and stronger storms swallow the shoreline.

As he nudges a borrowed boat around its shores, Eskridge, Tangier Island’s mayor, points out a waterfront perch for osprey – a type of fish hawk – he put up five years ago. At that time it sat half a football field’s length inland from the shore.

“Now look at it,” Eskridge says with a laugh. “Probably one more year and that will go into the water.”

As its habitable upland areas disappear – 60% have gone since 1967, and at an accelerating rate over time, a November study found – the population of Tangier Island also has been slowly eroding. Today just 400 or so people remain.

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