Casco Baykeeper

Our iconic Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne retired in early January. Read his announcement here.

On January 21, 2015, more than 230 friends said good bye to Joe Payne, Casco Baykeeper, and toasted him as Casco Baykeeper, Emeritus. Joe was presented with numerous awards, including citations from the US Coast Guard, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the EPA (in the form of a poem). He was even given the Key to the City of Portland!

Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell said, “Joe was the first employee of Friends of Casco Bay when he was hired in 1991, and he shaped the role of Casco Baykeeper. There is no ‘replacing Joe’ or ‘filling his shoes,’ but we now have a unique opportunity as an organization to pause and assess how best to move forward.”  We are engaging in a series of organization-wide conversations to define the tasks, responsibilities, and approaches that best serve the Bay and complement the existing staff of the organization, now eight full-time employees in addition to the Baykeeper position. You can read Cathy’s Update on Our Casco Baykeeper Transition.

Are you interested? Sometime in the late Spring, the Baykeeper job description will be posted on our website and emailed to our contacts. If you are interested in the position, please send your email address to keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org, and you will receive notice when the job is posted.

Our Baykeeping Program exists to reduce pollution and improve the health of the Bay, providing an iconic advocate who acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. While our Casco Baykeeper holds the official title, through the program our volunteers and staff advocate for solutions to problems facing our waters.

We are going through a comprehensive process to find our next Casco Baykeeper and will keep you posted on our transition.

As Casco Baykeeper, Joe Payne has taken a unique, “work-with” approach in his efforts to find solutions to problems facing the Bay. Collaborating with fishermen, businesses, government agencies, citizens, and other stakeholders, Joe has advocated for solutions that are pragmatic, scientifically sound, and effective.

“We can’t be complacent just because Casco Bay looks good. Our citizens will have to make hard decisions in the near future about pipelines across the Bay, sewage discharges, and the loss of aesthetic, recreational, and economic uses of our ocean resulting from current abuses.” -Joe Payne, Casco Baykeeper

Under the umbrella of Friends of Casco Bay, the Casco Baykeeper is a  member of WATERKEEPER® Alliance, an international environmental movement that began on New York’s Hudson River, where commercial and recreational fishermen united to save the river from polluters. The Waterkeeper concept evolved from gamekeepers in Great Britain who were responsible for maintaining private trout and salmon streams for wealthy landowners. The American interpretation of this role safeguards our waterways for the entire population.

What does it mean to be a Waterkeeper?

Waterkeepers – whether Baykeepers, Riverkeepers, Soundkeepers, or Bayoukeepers – all share the same mission: to defend their water bodies by responding to citizen concerns, advocating compliance with environmental laws, and working to resolve pollution problems that threaten their waterways.


The Board of the Waterkeeper Alliance reviews and licenses every program that seeks to call itself Waterkeeper. As a founding member of Waterkeeper Alliance, Friends of Casco Bay helped develop the quality standards that each program must meet. Here are a few:


1. A recognizable person to serve as a full-time, paid public advocate for the water body.

That individual is an “aqua-cop” committed to enforcing environmental laws and standards. A Waterkeeper uses whatever tools are appropriate, from personal persuasion and public opinion to government intervention or litigation.


2. Members whom the Waterkeeper represents.

Members provide the grassroots constituency that may be called upon to influence polluters, media, state agencies, and politicians. In addition, they help provide operating income and, most critically, give the Waterkeeper organization legal standing. One of the strongest tools a keeper has is the Citizen Suit provision of the Clean Water Act, which allows Waterkeepers and others acting for the environment to sue polluters. The Clean Water Act gives “any citizen” the authority “to commence a civil action” against an entity (including the federal or state government) that is violating “an effluent standard or limitation.” In a court of law, the Waterkeeper literally speaks for the organization’s individual members.

3. A boat with the Waterkeeper name clearly labeled to ensure on-the-water recognition.

That clearly-identified presence may be as modest as a canoe or as imposing as a high-speed patrol boat, whatever mode of transportation is best suited to maintain on-the-water vigilance.


4. An office where the Waterkeeper conducts fundamental tasks.

Tasks that are required to support the program include bookkeeping, strategic planning, and fundraising. A Waterkeeper cannot be a government employee.


5. A phone number citizens can call to report pollution incidents or concerns.

The Waterkeeper answers questions, speaks at public meetings, and talks with people around the Bay. The phone number represents response, advocacy, and enforcement. Contact information for alternate phone numbers or hotlines provides coverage even when emergencies occur after hours.


Fund the Baykeeper Program

You can support the Baykeeper’s advocacy work on behalf of the Bay. Donate here and write “Baykeeper” in the designation box once you get to the billing page. Thank you!