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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:

How can our coast be more resilient to climate change?

February 4, 2021

We are seeing the effects of climate change in Maine, with more changes looming in the years ahead. It may be hard to imagine how rising seas, larger storms, and storm surges may impact our roads, homes, and quality of life in the decades ahead. Yet, we still have time… Read more

Our top 10 moments of 2020

January 4, 2021

As this very odd year comes to a close, let’s celebrate the large and small ways our community helped us protect the health of Casco Bay in 2020. Here are our top ten for the year: 1.) On December 2, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait.” We… Read more

October and November 2020 Water Reporter Posts of the Month

December 15, 2020

What has 240 pairs of eyes and cares about the health of Casco Bay? Our network of volunteer Water Reporters! And even with colder weather descending on our region, our Water Reporters continue to stay connected to the Bay. Steve Fielding and Karla Talanian are among the dozens of volunteers… Read more

More good news for the Bay

December 11, 2020

Casco Bay received an early holiday gift: the City of South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict the use of fertilizers in order to encourage soil health and reduce nitrogen pollution into our coastal waters. Friends of Casco Bay applauds South Portland for taking this first-in-Maine step to protect our… Read more

Here’s the video from “Visual Storytelling and Casco Bay”

December 9, 2020

We had a blast hosting Visual Storytelling and Casco Bay: A Conversation with Knack Factory. Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were unable to attend live or would like to rewatch. What struck us, as we spoke with Alex Steed and Lindsey Heald about… Read more

Behinds the scenes of the making of our film

December 9, 2020

Here is a behind-the-scenes montage of the week Knack Factory spent with our staff and volunteers as they filmed our documentary. Consider this 4½-minute clip from the event as a big Thank You to all those who made this documentary possible: Lindsey Heald, Thomas Starkey, and Tadin Brown of Knack… Read more