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What are the biggest challenges for the Bay?

Overall, Casco Bay is a healthy and productive system, but our coastal waters face a myriad of threats, including nitrogen pollution, ocean and coastal acidification, climate chaos, and stormwater pollution. As these challenges grow, government resources to tackle these threats continue to decline. More and more work and responsibilities are falling to local organizations such as ours.

What are the biggest threats to the Bay today?

In short, excess nitrogen, ocean and coastal acidification, stormwater pollution, and a lack of government resources to tackle these issues. As local, state, and federal governments’ budgets shrink, we are mobilizing more volunteers than ever to monitor water quality and help clean up our shorelines. As nitrogen pollution and acidification are changing the chemistry of the Bay, we are investigating innovative and collaborative ways to address these issues. As we focus our resources on protecting the health of Casco Bay, we are also continuing to build a resilient organization.

Climate change — Rising sea level, warming water temperature, and ocean acidity all impact our coastal waters. The resulting changes in weather patterns, storm surges, and coastal flooding are impacting our shorelines and Bay. Species shifts, infectious diseases, and invasive predators impact our ocean food web. Changes to our marine resources threaten the harvesting of traditional fisheries and innovations in aquaculture.

Nitrogen and coastal acidification — Nitrogen pollution from land is changing the chemistry of our Bay and putting stress on the health of our marine resources. Nitrogen is necessary for plant growth, but too much can trigger a population explosion of phytoplankton and green seaweeds. The “rise of slime” caused by nitrogen pollution results in mudflats smothered by mats of bright green algae, clam flats closed to harvesters by red tides, and murky waters choking out eelgrass beds.

Oil spills — As a major oil tanker port with a history of a only few major oil spills, we all need to  work to prevent spills and prepare to respond rapidly in the event of a spill.

Dredging — Deepening shipping channels and dredging our working waterfront must be managed to remove polluted sediments that can harm marine life.

Plastic pollution — Plastics are showing up in Casco Bay, from single-use shopping bags to nearly invisible microfibers. These plastics are swept into the ocean from land and off boats. 

We work on all these issues and so much more. We collect data on the health of the Bay and use this science to inform our advocacy and education. You can learn more about all of our areas of work here

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Cover photo: Photograph by Kevin Morris

Read more about the health of Casco Bay:

Casco Bay is heating up

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Seem hotter than usual? Yes, indeed. Our Continuous Monitoring Station has been collecting hourly data on the health of the Bay for more than four years. Data from the station show that this summer has been the hottest one we have recorded since our “Cage of Science” has been in… Read more

Announcing the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund

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Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly. In the two minute video above, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell announces the public phase of our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement. We are creating a $1.5 million fund to be used over the next ten years… Read more

Casco Bay and the Maine Climate Council

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  If you want to learn more about the Maine Climate Council, follow their Summer Climate Series. Each week, the Council is using its social media accounts – Twitter and Instagram – to highlight its Scientific & Technical Subcommittee and six Working Groups. The posts feature quotes from Working Group co-chairs, short run-downs of… Read more

Working with you to Keep Casco Bay Blue

July 27, 2020

  We are excited to share a short film made by Knack Factory in honor of our 30th anniversary. The Knack Factory team joined Friends of Casco Bay staff and volunteers on the water over the course of a week last fall to create a short film about our work. Knack Factory… Read more

Following the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant’s sewage spill closely

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Friends of Casco Bay has been following the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant’s sewage spill closely.  On Sunday, July 19, a power outage and a failed backup generator at the treatment plant led to the discharged nearly four million gallons of partially treated wastewater into Casco Bay, near East End… Read more

For Casco Bay, for Us

July 23, 2020

  Internationally-renowned Gulf of Maine poet Gary Lawless wrote this poem in honor of Friends of Casco Bay’s 30th Anniversary. Friends of the Bay heard the first reading of this poem during our Celebrating Water – 30 Years of Friends of Casco Bay event on July 27, 2020. For Casco… Read more