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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:

The looming question for the future— How is Casco Bay changing?

December 6, 2017

We see water itself as fundamental habitat. When water quality deteriorates, eelgrass, plankton, clams, and other marine creatures suffer. Thanks to our 25-year data set on water quality in Casco Bay, we now have a better overall understanding of the health of the Bay. We understand when and which areas… Read more

What we have learned from 25 years of water quality data

December 6, 2017

Since 1992, more than 650 volunteers have gotten their hands wet in our Citizen Stewards Water Quality Monitoring Program, complementing the work of our staff scientists in assessing the environmental health of Casco Bay. This science is the foundation of much of our community engagement and advocacy efforts. Volunteer Citizen… Read more

Volunteer Appreciation & Annual Member’s Meeting

November 20, 2017

Volunteer Appreciation Celebration & 2018 Annual Members Meeting Join us as we recognize those who help us protect the health of Casco Bay. We will provide the updated Casco Bay Health Index based on data collected by volunteer Citizen Stewards over the past 25 years, and we will share new… Read more

Presumscot River Creates a Brown Bay

Stormwater: the Largest Source of Pollution into Casco Bay

October 12, 2017

MS4. Unless you are a civil engineer or a municipal public works director charged with dealing with discharge permits, you may not know that “MS4” stands for municipal separate storm sewer systems (called MS4 because “s” is repeated four times). An MS4 is a system of storm drains, pipes, or… Read more

Sewage Treatment Plant courtesy of Portland Water District

Historic Agreement to Cut Nitrogen by 20-40%

October 12, 2017

Imagine if we could remove 500 to 1,000 pounds of excess nitrogen from the Bay each day. An historic effort by Portland Water District may do just that! After nearly a year of work, the Portland Water District and Friends of Casco Bay developed an agreement aimed at reducing nitrogen… Read more

Back Cove August 2nd, 2017

Our “Slime Watchers” Are Keeping an Eye on the Bay

October 12, 2017

If you have ever thought about buying a drone but could not figure out what to use it for, take a lesson from Deb Dawson, a professional photographer and one of our volunteer water quality monitors. This past summer, Deb took her talents to even greater heights—right over Back Cove… Read more