Home » Where is Casco Bay? » What are the biggest challenges for Casco Bay?

 

 

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

Support Our Work

Cover photo: Photograph by Kevin Morris

Read more about the health of Casco Bay:

Do you know what color Casco Bay is?

August 12, 2018

Pop quiz: Can you figure out which of these photos is of Casco Bay? The correct answer is B—but on any given day or part of the Bay, Casco Bay could look like any of these three pictures. Why does it matter? Water color can be an important indicator of the environmental health… Read more

Help us see the Bay in a New Way

August 8, 2018

As you may know, Friends of Casco Bay has joined a worldwide effort to better understand how our waters may be changing—by observing water color. Since we launched our Color by Numbers pilot project three months ago, 178 of you have signed up to measure the color of Casco Bay. The map of Casco Bay… Read more

Become a Water Reporter and report what you see on Casco Bay

August 6, 2018

Want to get outside, take photos that may help protect the health of Casco Bay, and connect with other community members? We invite you to join our new volunteer Observing Network, Water Reporter, an exciting way to share what you see around the Bay. In 2016 and 2017, we saw a concerning increase in the number… Read more

Coastal Cleanup at Bug Light Park for International Coastal Cleanup Day

July 12, 2018

Join us at Bug Light Park for International Coastal Cleanup Day! When: Saturday, September 15, 2018, 9 AM – Noon Where: Bug Light Park Questions? Email Sarah at slyman [at] cascobay [dot] org Do you want to help keep Casco Bay clean? Volunteer to help out at our public coastal cleanup! Trash… Read more

Tending Portland’s public spaces without pesticides

June 29, 2018

On July 1, Portland’s Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect for public properties. (In January, 2019, restrictions on applying synthetic pesticides on private property will go into effect.) We asked City Arborist Jeff Tarling how the Parks Department may manage the City’s 721 acres of parks, playgrounds, trails, fields, and… Read more

A New Way to Volunteer: Measure the Color of Casco Bay

June 27, 2018

From Homer’s “wine dark seas” to David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet,” the color of the ocean has held our fascination throughout the ages. People often consider blue water as a sign of a healthy ocean and dirty-brown water to indicate polluted water. Turns out, color is a valuable indicator of the… Read more