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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:

Water Reporters Spur Actions to Protect the Bay

October 16, 2018

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is our watchdog on the health of the Bay. She is on or along the water as much as possible, even in her spare time! But she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely upon our Volunteers to be our extra eyes on the Bay. Since July, increasingly… Read more

July 26— The Day the Poop Hit the Bay

October 16, 2018

On July 26, 1.69 million gallons of partially-treated wastewater overflowed from Portland’s East End Sewage Treatment Facility into Casco Bay. This story made the news and captured our attention. That same day, 9.85 million gallons of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), containing raw sewage and toxic chemicals, also entered the Bay.… Read more

Water Reporters watch out for Casco Bay all year long

October 3, 2018

We launched our Water Reporter Observing Network in July. Since then, our volunteer Water Reporters have been reporting the good, the bad, and the ugly of what they have been seeing out on the Bay. Here are some recent examples: Sandy M shared this post on September 11th near East End Beach: “Just more plastic junk, but c’mon,”   Our Community Engagement… Read more

Water Reporter Volunteers are important to our Baykeeping efforts!

September 17, 2018

Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca acts as the eyes, ears, and voice of the Bay. She is on or along the water almost daily, but she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely on volunteers to report conditions around the Bay. The Water Reporter App really helps those efforts because we instantly receive… Read more

See sea critters and our Cage of Science

August 24, 2018

Watch this short video about the Cage of Science! You may know that Friends of Casco Bay’s Continuous Monitoring Station—AKA our “Cage of Science”—gives us vital data about the health of the Bay. But did you also know that observations of what sea life is growing on and hanging out… Read more

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