It was widely reported in November 2005 that the islands have progressively become uninhabitable, with an estimate of their total submersion by 2015. The islanders have fought a more than twenty years battle, building a seawall and planting mangroves. However, storm surges and high tides continue to wash away homes, destroy vegetable gardens and contaminate fresh water supplies. The natural tree cover on the island is also being impacted by the incursion of saltwater contamination of the fresh water table.
There have been a number of different relocation schemes initiated since the 1980's. These have had mixed success with many of the relocated families subsequently returning home.
On 25 November 2003, the Papua New Guinean government authorized the government-funded total evacuation of the islands, 10 families at a time; the evacuation was expected to be completed by 2007, but access to funding caused numerous delays.
In October 2007 it was announced that the Papua New Guinea government would provide two million kina (USD $736,000) to begin the relocation, to be organized by Tulele Peisa of Buka, Bougainville. Five men from the island moved to Bougainville in early 2009 who built some houses and planted crops for their families to follow. It is planned to bring another 1700 people over the next five years. However, there has been no large-scale evacuation seem set into effect as of November 2011.
CNN has reported that the Carteret islanders will be the first island community in the world to undergo an organized relocation, in response to rising sea levels. The people of the Carteret are being called the world's first environmental refugees.