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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:

What’s green, microscopic, and makes ½ our oxygen?

July 1, 2020

What’s green, microscopic, and makes half of the oxygen we breathe? Phytoplankton, the tiny algae at the base of the food chain, that’s what! Measurements of chlorophyll — the green pigment that enables plants and algae to photosynthesize — provide an estimate of how much phytoplankton are in our coastal… Read more

30 years of success protecting the Bay

June 25, 2020

We were delighted to have more than 80 Friends of the Bay join us for our 30th Anniversary Members Annual Meeting on June 16. As Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell said during the event, we only wish we could have held it in person. If you missed the event — or… Read more

Join us in looking back and looking ahead

June 10, 2020

This year, Friends of Casco Bay is celebrating its 30th anniversary–and you can join us in observing this occasion in two ways. First, be sure you are registered for our 30th Anniversary Members Annual Meeting, which will be held online next Tuesday, June 16, from 5 to 6 p.m [more… Read more

A Warm Winter and Spring

June 10, 2020

How warm was winter and spring on Casco Bay? Staff Scientist Mike Doan takes a look at our data. You can always see our Continuous Monitoring Station data here. Read more

Friends of Casco Bay’s 2020 Members Annual Meeting

June 3, 2020

  Friends of Casco Bay’s Members Annual Meeting In this 30 second video, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell invites you to join us to celebrate 30 years of working with you to keep Casco Bay blue! In honor of this auspicious occasion, we are hosting a couple of online events, and… Read more

Take a tour of our Cage of Science

May 14, 2020

What is this Cage of Science that Friends of Casco Bay keeps talking about? We invite you to join Staff Scientist Mike Doan out on Casco Bay for a short tour of our Continuous Monitoring Station. In this 2 ½ minute video, Mike shows off the high-tech components of the… Read more