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Category: Ocean and Coastal Acidification

Casco Bay is heating up

Seem hotter than usual? Yes, indeed.

Our Continuous Monitoring Station has been collecting hourly data on the health of the Bay for more than four years.

Data from the station show that this summer has been the hottest one we have recorded since our “Cage of Science” has been in the water.

This graph compares water temperatures from 2016 to this month. The lavender-colored line represents the daily averages for this year.

Staff Scientist Mike Doan says “The data are concerning. This summer’s temperatures were on average the warmest we have seen at the station.”

You can find the most recent data for all the parameters we measure at our Cage of Science here.

In addition to collecting hourly data, for nearly 30 years, we have been spot-checking sites in the Bay. The temperature data from our three Sentinel Sites (see graph below for annual average, data collected May through October each year) show an upward trend as temperatures in Casco Bay have risen by 2.4° Fahrenheit [1.3° Celsius].

annual temperatures graph 2019

“Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly,” reports Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. “That’s why we have launched the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund, which will help us put two more Continuous Monitoring Stations in the water, one near Portland and one near Harpswell, and operate all three stations for ten years.”

The $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund will be used over the next decade to understand the ways in which our waters are changing, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change. Friends of Casco Bay has raised 87% of its goal for the Fund. You can read more about the Fund, our 10-year plan, and make a secure donation here.

Casco Bay Matters: Maine Climate Council, the online presentation 4/30/2020

We had a lively Casco Bay and the Maine Climate Council: A Casco Bay Matters Event last week! Here is a video of the event, for those of you who were not able to attend live or would like to relisten.

The results of the poll taken during the event reflect which coastal and marine strategies participants thought were the most important for the Climate Council to consider. In addition to the poll, many participants told us that all of the strategies are important to them.

Participants asked so many great questions that Cassy and I could not answer them all during the event. Please see the Q&A section below to see responses to the questions we did not have time to answer online.

If you have ideas or thoughts you would like to share with the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council, email me at ifrignoca [at] cascobay [dot] org by Friday, May 8th. I will collate the feedback and pass it on to the Working Group.

You can find a list of the Maine Climate Council’s upcoming public events on the Council’s webpage.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the Maine Climate Council process, the Coastal and Marine Working Group, the Working Group’s draft recommendations, and how these efforts connect to Casco Bay.

If you have feedback on our online presentation itself, please email keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org. We are always looking to improve.

You can make a donation to support our work to improve and protect Casco Bay anytime at cascobay.org/donate.

Thank you for helping us care for Casco Bay. Your interest and enthusiasm truly inspire me.

Warm regards,
Ivy Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

Questions from the event and answers:

Q: What type of monitoring is in place and what additions are planned?
A: This is a terrific and broad question, too large in fact to answer quickly or for me to know precisely all of the monitoring in place coast-wide in Maine.

The Science and Technical Subcommittee of the Maine Climate Council is producing reports that catalogue the state of our knowledge across sectors.

The Coastal and Marine Working Group is recommending monitoring and information exchange strategies to provide as much data as possible to decision makers.

We have included with the draft monitoring strategy example sources of existing data. Some broad examples of categories of coastal and marine data include fisheries landings, ocean chemistry data, nitrogen data, bacteria data, harmful algal blooms data, acreage of salt marsh habitat, and projections of the impacts of sea level rise.

Friends of Casco Bay has been monitoring the health of Casco Bay for 28 years. Researchers and state agencies are considering using our Continuous Monitoring Station as a model for coastal monitoring efforts in other areas of the state. You can read more about our monitoring efforts on our website.

Q: Are you looking at incentives for private owners of coastal marshes or public acquisition of these areas?
A: The Coastal and Marine Working Group is exploring ways to preserve salt marshes, and I will share your question with the ecosystem subcommittee of the Working Group.

Q: How can eelgrass bed “salvation” be worked on. I live at Willard Beach and remember that years ago there was such a bed offshore here.
A: According to recent mapping, Willard Beach still has a dense and extensive eelgrass bed. Eelgrass bed salvation depends on the cause of its demise. If an eelgrass bed is unhealthy or dying because of excess nitrogen entering the marine system due to human causes, we can work on eliminating or reducing the sources of nitrogen. This is not necessarily easy but can be done. If the demise is due to invasive green crab foraging, we face a different challenge. Green crabs have proven very difficult to control.

Q: I’m wondering if there’s been any discussion about sources of carbon from coastal and marine systems and whether/how those could be addressed? I get the impression that this working group focuses mostly on impacts from climate change rather than sources of carbon emissions. That makes a lot of sense, but I still wonder about the marine contributions.
A: Yes, the Coastal and Marine Working Group is tasked with considering sources of carbon from coastal and marine sources. My best understanding is that marine vessels make up a small percentage of total carbon emissions. Nonetheless, we are exploring options, such as port electrification. The Department of Environmental Protection recently updated a report on air emissions from marine vessels. Follow this link to view the report and learn how complicated this topic can be to regulate: https://www.maine.gov/dep/publications/reports/index.html

Q: Can you comment on where the focus is for the working group, blue carbon or emission reductions or some relative amount of ‘all of the above’? My concern with integrating blue carbon sequestration into climate policy is that people use those carbon sinks as a reason to not limit fossil fuel combustion, which is ultimately the only adaptation strategy that will work. Also, warming water temperatures, rising sea levels, etc, make blue carbon sequestration really difficult to quantify (it already is, as you know).
A: This is an astute question. We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions significantly to achieve the mitigation goals set forth by statute. A lot of Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation sources. The portion of those emissions attributed to marine vessels is fairly small. We are considering mitigation of those sources. The ecosystem subcommittee (of which I am a member) really liked the blue carbon strategy because of the complete suite of mitigation, resilience, and adaptation benefits derived from improving and protecting the health of our marshes and eelgrass beds. I agree that carbon sequestration alone will not solve the problem, and other working groups are developing detailed strategies for transportation, energy, buildings, and more, all designed to reduce our carbon footprint.

Q: How do any of these strategies dovetail with similar GMRI strategies and how they are structured?
A: The Maine Climate Council was created by state law and is an action plan for the state. I cannot answer how the plan may ultimately align with the work of GMRI (Gulf of Maine Research Institute) or others. GMRI is participating in the council, as are many other research and marine organizations around the state, including, for example, Friends of Casco Bay, Island Institute, Downeast Institute, Maine Sea Grant, and Bigelow Labortatory.

Q: Can you comment on the potential benefits to lobster habitat from kelp and other aquaculture? 
A: This is outside of my area of expertise. The fisheries and aquaculture subcommittee has experts who are exploring such questions. If you have information to share in this regard or would like me to try to connect you with the appropriate expert, please email me directly.

Q: Do you think there might be a better recognition in the world’s society as to how we should more rapidly approach “catastrophic risk” planning regarding climate change, perhaps as we should have approached the planning for a pandemic?
A: As a world, we are way behind on coordinated action to address the climate crisis. Through the Maine Climate Council, hundreds of researchers, advocates, and policy experts are working to do what we can at the state level. The four year state action plan intends to build upon existing efforts, foster action, and be rooted in sound science. We are heartened that municipalities, such as Portland and South Portland, are adopting plans for mitigating and adapting to climate change. At Friends of Casco Bay, we are advocating for local, regional, and national solutions. It will be up to all of us to work together on many different levels to tackle these issues.

Q: How can we help Friends of Casco Bay?
A: We’re glad you asked! We have many ways you can help. You can make a donation to our work. You can also help keep an eye on the changes happening around the Bay by volunteering as a Water Reporter.

Q: Do the Maine Climate Council and the Working Groups have an email feed to keep up with meetings and document releases?
A: Yes, the Maine Climate Council does. Visit
https://www.maine.gov/future/initiatives/climate/climate-council and scroll down, looking on the right-hand side of the page to find the sign-up form.

Q: Is Friends of Casco Bay looking at an electric boat?
A: Although we continue to explore ways to reduce our carbon footprint, we are not looking at an electric boat at present. We chose our inboard diesel Baykeeper boat back in 2012, because it provided a large, safe, efficient, and fast enough platform for us to do our work out on the Bay.

Q: Will Ivy’s slides be available on the Climate Council website?
A: No, however the recording of this event is available here: https://youtu.be/fWxc_hHyt_M

A special Season’s Greetings to you

Amid the delights and demands of the Holidays, we pause here to thank you and all our volunteers, donors, and supporters. You play a crucial role in our ability to monitor the environmental health of Casco Bay, engage community members to be good stewards, and protect our coastal waters from pollution. May the serenity of the season find its way into your heart—along with our gratitude!

We look forward to meeting the challenges ahead in the New Year, confident that with the support of Friends like you, we will forge ahead toward a healthier Casco Bay.

Warmest regards,

Cathy L. Ramsdell, CPA
Executive Director

Did you see our top 10 stories of 2019?

Let’s walk down Memory Lane together to recall our most popular stories of the year, based on your visits to our website and our social media interactions:

  • You answered the call when Casco Bay needed your voice. We asked our supporters to urge the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Marine Resources to pass a bill to create a Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission. Ultimately, our bill was incorporated into the Governor’s comprehensive climate change bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support.
  • Maine takes a BIG step forward to address climate change. Our Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was appointed to serve on the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the newly-created Maine Climate Council.
  • Casco Bay Temperature Extremes Whenever Research Associate Mike Doan is asked, “What were the highest and the lowest water temperatures this year?” he directs folks to our Continuous Monitoring Station data, which document water conditions in the Bay on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.
  • Our new pumpout boat is taking care of business. More than 100 friends cheered the christening and launch of Headmaster, the new pumpout boat specially built for Friends of Casco Bay.
  • Have you seen this fin? It’s not a shark! Several boaters on the Bay encountered Mola mola, or ocean sunfish, this summer.
  • Casco Bay Matters More than 380 people attended our presentations on Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and You. If you missed our Casco Bay Matters presentations, you can see the series of three videos on our YouTube channel.
  • BEE a BayScaper! Jane Benesch’s yard attracts butterflies and bees — and neighbors who stop to admire her flower beds, vegetable gardens, tiny lawn — and her BayScaper sign.
  • Hosting so many service days with local companies this year is great for Casco Bay. Friends of Casco Bay led 22 coastal cleanups this summer. Remarked Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, “Still, we always found plenty of debris to pick up!”
  • Keep pet waste out of the Bay! While we were examining a pollution incident in Cumberland, we came across a pile of dog poop bags at the outfall of a storm drain. When pet lovers toss poop bags into a storm drain, they are not doing the Bay any favors.
  • Water Reporters report in about #sealevelrise. Volunteer Water Reporters were out taking photos of the high tides to document flooded streets and eroding coastlines — warning signs of sea level rise.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Our emails will help you stay on top of news about Casco Bay in 2020, including our 30th anniversary celebration on April 29, 2020, at Ocean Gateway in Portland. Mark your calendar and save the date!

Top 10 stories of 2019

Let’s walk down Memory Lane together to recall our most popular stories of the year, based on your visits to our website and our social media interactions:

  • You answered the call when Casco Bay needed your voice
    We asked our supporters to let legislators know they are concerned about climate change and the health of Casco Bay. You urged the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Marine Resources to support a bill to create a Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission. Your voices were heard as our bill was incorporated into the Governor’s comprehensive climate change bill, An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council, which was passed with strong bipartisan support.
  • Maine takes a BIG step forward to address climate change
    Friends of Casco Bay fervently supported Governor Mills’ bill to establish the Maine Climate Council because it focuses on the root causes of climate change and recognizes that we must act now to remediate and adapt to inevitable change. Our Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Climate Council.
  • Casco Bay Temperature Extremes
    Research Associate Mike Doan is often asked, “What were the highest and the lowest water temperatures this year?” Thanks to our Continuous Monitoring Station, Mike is able to share those data with confidence. He can tell you what water conditions in the Bay are on an hourly, daily, weekly, seasonal, or yearly basis in far more detail than ever before.
  • Our new pumpout boat is taking care of business
    On June 10, more than 100 friends cheered the christening and launch of Headmaster, the new pumpout boat specially built for Friends of Casco Bay. It transports raw sewage from the holding tanks of recreational boats to shoreside treatment. The name Headmaster is a play on the word for a marine toilet — “head” — and gives a nod to the educational and ambassadorial role of the pumpout service.
  • Have you seen this fin?
    It’s not a shark! Several boaters on the Bay encountered Mola mola, or ocean sunfish, this summer. Its bulbous body is not designed for speed, but it can plunge down hundreds of feet in search of its favorite food: jellyfish. It then floats on its side at the ocean surface to warm up after its chilly dive.
  • Casco Bay Matters
    In March and April, 380 people attended our first-ever Casco Bay Matters series, held at three venues around the Bay. They heard Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, Research Associate Mike Doan, and Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell speak on Climate Change, Ocean Acidification and You in Portland, South Portland, and Brunswick. By the last presentation, in Brunswick, it was standing room only. If you missed our Casco Bay Matters presentations, you can see the series of three videos on our YouTube channel.
  • BEE a BayScaper!
    We were proud to see a BayScaper sign on the lawn of Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteer Jane Benesch. Her South Portland yard is bedecked with flower beds, vegetable patches, and wood chip-lined paths — and just a little turf. Her yard attracts butterflies and bees — and neighbors who stop to admire her winged visitors.
  • Hosting so many service days with local companies this year is great for Casco Bay.
    Friends of Casco Bay led 22 coastal cleanups this summer. We had so many requests for community service projects that volunteers sometimes scoured the same location only four days apart. “Still,” said Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, “we always found find plenty of debris to pick up!”
  • Keep pet waste out of the Bay!
    While we were examining a pollution incident in Cumberland, we came across several dog poop bags at the outfall of a storm drain. When folks toss poop bags into a storm drain, they are not doing the Bay any favors. Storm drains often lead directly to Casco Bay. So after bagging it, deposit pet waste in a trash can or flush the contents down the toilet and throw the plastic bag in the trash.
  • Water Reporters report in about #sealevelrise
    Volunteer Water Reporters were out taking photos of the high tides to document flooded streets, eroding coastlines, and tide levels encroaching where we don’t normally see them. Water Reporter provides a two-way conversation platform about protecting Casco Bay.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New year. Make sure you stay on top of news about Casco Bay in 2020!

Advocacy: Laying the groundwork for confronting ocean climate change

Our 2019 priority legislative bill to create a state-funded Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission was integrated into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. With Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca in attendance, Governor Janet Mills signed the bill into law on June 26, 2019.

Our Casco Baykeeper has been asked to serve as a member of the Council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group. It is a tribute to the work that Ivy has devoted to nurturing and coordinating the volunteer Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification (MOCA) partnership, which she and Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell helped formally launch in 2016.

In 2019, Friends of Casco Bay received a grant to enable MOCA to draft an action plan to address the impact of climate change on Maine’s marine species. Recommendations from that effort will help the newly-created Climate Council as it drafts its five-year plan of action.

Ivy reflected, “The creation of the Maine Climate Council marks the culmination of five years of efforts to bring attention to the threats of ocean and coastal acidification to our marine ecology and economy. Concerned Mainers built a coalition that is helping to provide the groundwork for the new Administration’s work plan on ocean climate change.”

Read more about this work in this recent Portland Press Herald article: https://www.pressherald.com/2019/09/16/maine-finally-addressing-climate-change-in-the-gulf/

Ivy Frignoca appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council

Friends of Casco Bay’s Ivy Frignoca appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the Maine Climate Council

On September 26th, Governor Janet Mills officially launched the Maine Climate Council. She challenged the 39 members of the Council, and the many others who will serve on its subcommittees and working groups, to create a climate change action plan to make Maine a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the people she was speaking directly to was Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, who had been appointed to the Coastal and Marine Working Group.

“Casco Bay is already experiencing the impacts of climate change,” said Ivy, “including warming waters, increasing acidity, more nuisance algal blooms, and changes in water chemistry that make it harder for shellfish to grow their shells.”

The Maine Climate Council and its working groups will be meeting monthly through next summer. Collectively, they will develop an action plan for the next four years with strategies to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change. The report will be submitted to the Governor in December 2020, as required by the bill passed last session, An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council.

“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and act. This Council is not just producing a report that will sit on a shelf somewhere. The statute demands action to address climate change,” responded Ivy. “We applaud our Governor and the bipartisan Climate Council tasked with creating an action plan to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to inevitable climate change.”

Bill Mook, founder of Mook Sea Farm and one of the Council members, echoed that sentiment, “Problems are the raw materials of innovation.”

Said Cathy Ramsdell, Executive Director of Friends of Casco Bay, “We are honored that our chief advocate has been asked to serve on the newly-created council’s Coastal and Marine Working Group. Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca has been instrumental in helping to create and guide the all-volunteer network, the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership, which presaged the Governor’s Climate Council. As climate change threatens our oceans, Friends of Casco Bay will continue to shine the spotlight on ways we all can work together to protect the health of this shared resource.”

And how is your summer going?

Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share:

  • Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. In recognition of her yeoman’s work on this issue, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was invited to attend the bill signing by Governor Janet Mills on June 26th.

 

  • Our water quality sampling season is well underway, as we continue to add to our long-term dataset at 22 shoreside and deepwater sites around the Bay. You may see Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy making the rounds by land and by sea every few weeks from April through October.

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Since early June, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell has been attending bi-weekly meetings of the South Portland Fertilizer Working Group to assist the City in drafting a fertilizer ordinance.

 

  • July 20 marks the third anniversary of the launch of our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. Our Monitoring Station is fondly nicknamed the “Cage of Science” because its high-tech sensors are housed inside a transformed lobster trap. The instruments measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, and carbon dioxide.
    Photo by Kevin Morris

    Together, they collect data once an hour, every hour, year round.  At this time of year, Mike has to scrape off a new array of marine hitchhikers whenever he hauls up the Cage of Science to download data.

 

  • ‘Tis the season to think about what not to put on your lawn! With five workshops behind her, Associate Director Mary Cerullo has scheduled another five BayScaping presentations for August and beyond. She is happy to talk with neighborhood groups about green yards and a blue Bay.

 

  • There has been such a demand by community groups to volunteer for coastal cleanups and storm drain stenciling projects that Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and summer intern Alexis Burns have been very busy. They already have hosted seven events with 106 participants who collected an estimated 238 lbs. of trash and stenciled 238 storm drains!

 

  • Photo by Kevin Morris

    Our new pumpout boat, Headmaster, was launched on June 10th to pump raw sewage from the marine toilets of recreational boats. Captain Jim Splude, our congenial pumpout boat coordinator, can go about his business more efficiently now with a new boat that has more than twice the holding capacity of the old one.

 

  • Our Water Reporter volunteer project is expanding as we hoped and planned. Nearly 40 enthusiastic volunteers attended our Water Reporter training on June 24. Volunteers continue to sign up to keep watch over specific areas of the Bay.
    July 10 was the first anniversary of Friends of Casco Bay’s launch of the Water Reporter app. To date, 162 volunteers in this observing network have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!

Maine takes a BIG step forward to address climate change

Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

We have good news to share: on June 19, 2019, the Maine Legislature passed LD 1679, Governor Janet Mills’ bill to establish the Maine Climate Council.

We fervently supported the Governor’s bill because it focuses on the root causes of climate change and recognizes that we must act now to remediate and adapt to inevitable change. The Governor’s bill incorporates many elements of a bipartisan bill that Friends of Casco Bay and the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification (MOCA) partnership championed: LD 1284: An Act To Create a Science and Policy Advisory Council on the Impacts of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species. Many Friends like you contacted the Legislature in support of that bill.

Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper and the coordinator of MOCA, says, “We could not be more excited about the Governor’s Climate Council bill. It takes on the herculean but necessary task of drastically reducing carbon emissions while setting up a council with subgroups of experts to help us address and adapt to inevitable changes. As the voice of Casco Bay, we strongly commend those portions of the bill that address the impacts of climate change — including ocean acidification — on Maine’s iconic marine resources.”

The Governor’s bill establishes six working groups, including a Coastal and Marine Working Group and a Scientific and Technical Working Group. We anticipate that many of the aspects of our collective efforts to address coastal and ocean acidification will be addressed by these groups. To aid that process, Friends of Casco Bay, as coordinator of MOCA, will meet with other partnership members this summer to create a marine climate change action plan. We look forward to sharing that plan with the Governor’s Council and will stand ready to serve as a resource to the Council.

Aquaculturists, resource harvesters, and lobstermen supported passage of this legislation. Bill Mook, owner of Mook Sea Farm, says “For those of us whose livelihoods are so tightly linked to a healthy environment, the passage of Governor Mill’s climate bill has rekindled hope. We must now show the rest of America how the path to a clean energy future will not only lead us to a healthier environment, but it will also take us to a vibrant, inclusive, and healthy economic future.”

Richard Nelson from Friendship, Maine, applauds the positive approach the state is taking on climate change, “As a lobsterman and, at times, spokesman for climate’s ill effects on the ocean’s realm, I would readily shed that position as harbinger and turn instead to being a participant in the real actions to combat it, as put forth in the Governor’s bill.”

The comprehensive bill sets tough goals to reduce Maine’s carbon footprint. It provides that by 2050, Maine must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% and get 100% of our electricity from renewable sources. The bill sets a pathway for achieving the goals in a statewide plan in order to turn these targets into actions. At a time when the federal administration is resistant to exploring mitigation and resiliency efforts, Maine is joining a growing number of states taking the lead to address climate change to collectively make a difference.

Governor Mills is expected to have a signing ceremony for the bill soon, and the Climate Council will likely begin its work this fall.

Mike and Ivy on the Boat

Casco Bay Matters: Advancing the conversation—and action—on climate change

Mike and Ivy on the Boat

Living close to the ocean, Casco Bay residents are witnessing the effects of climate change happening here now: warming water temperatures, increasing ocean acidity, and more severe storms. We too are seeing the changes in our data and when we are out on the Bay.

From April through October, our Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca are on the Bay frequently to monitor water quality, follow up on pollution reports, or meet with partners on issues best understood from the water. Their vigilance gives them a firsthand view of changes happening in our coastal waters.

Mike, Ivy, and Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell shared these and other observations in our first-ever Casco Bay Matters series. Nearly 400 people attended Ocean Acidification, Climate Change and You presentations about what we are learning about a changing Casco Bay.

They shared how Mainers are working together to shape policies and actions to respond to these threats. Ivy is coordinating the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification partnership, a diverse coalition of scientists, lawmakers, aquaculturalists, and seafood harvesters, who collaborate on research and strategies to confront the threats that climate change and acidification pose to Maine’s marine resources. We also are working with legislators to pass a bill to create a state-sponsored Science and Policy Advisory Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species.

Video Recordings of Casco Bay Matters:

Casco Bay Matters Intro Video

If you missed our Casco Bay Matters presentations of Ocean Acidification, Climate Change and You, you are in luck — our stalwart volunteer Deb Dawson recorded and edited videos of our South Portland (March 25, 2019) event. See the series of three videos on our YouTube channel.

Highlights from Casco Bay Matters:

Warmer waters: Friends of Casco Bay has been tracking water temperatures for over a quarter century. On average, water temperatures in Casco Bay have risen 2.5°F (1.4°C) since 1993. The growth, reproduction, and survival of marine life are influenced by temperature.

Rising Water Temperatures in Casco Bay

More carbon dioxide in our coastal waters from air and from land: We know that burning fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, trapping heat and warming the planet. Nearly 30% of atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean. Carbon dioxide mixes with water to form carbonic acid, making the water more acidic. This is ocean acidification.

Maine’s nearshore waters are also at risk from coastal acidification. Excess nitrogen from sewage treatment plants, polluted stormwater, and fertilizers can stimulate massive algal growth. When the algal blooms die, decomposition depletes the area of lifegiving oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, further acidifying the water.

Threats to the ocean food web: More carbon dioxide in our waters means less shell-building material (calcium carbonate) for clams, mussels, and planktonic creatures that support the ocean food chain. Data from our Continuous Monitoring Station enable us to calculate the calcium carbonate saturation state — what scientists term omega aragonite — which can tell us whether, at any given time, enough calcium carbonate is readily available to shell-building creatures. Shell formation becomes more difficult for some species when the amount of available calcium carbonate falls below a 1.5 aragonite saturation state.

Our data indicate that for part of the year, levels of calcium carbonate in Casco Bay fall below the threshold for optimal shell-building for some species.

Sea level rise: As water warms, it expands, and the seas encroach on our coastline. Coastal observers and property owners are reporting more erosion.

Increasing precipitation: Maine has seen a six-inch rise in average annual precipitation since 1895, further threatening coastal properties. Torrential rains intensify erosion and flush overloads of nitrogen, pollutants, and sediments into coastal waters.

Those who depend upon the sea can attest to the fast pace of change. What do these changes mean for Casco Bay?

  • As oceans become more acidic, we can anticipate more pitting or thinning of the shells of many commercially viable species in Casco Bay, such as clams, mussels, and oysters.
  • Voracious green crabs — which eat juvenile shellfish — thrive in warming waters.
  • Rising water temperatures are linked with shell disease in crustaceans, directly impacting Maine’s iconic lobster fishery.
  • Scientists and lobstermen are documenting lobster populations shifting north and east.
  • Copepods, tiny crustaceans that are the main food source for juvenile lobsters, may not be as plump as they once were. In laboratory experiments that simulate climate changes now happening in the Gulf of Maine, copepods were less fatty. With a less nutritious diet, young lobsters must divert energy from growth and resisting disease to finding enough food to survive.

Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and You

Climate Change Science and Data

  • The climate is changing faster than expected. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are the culprits. The burning of fossil fuels for homes, industry, and transportation releases almost 10,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. 1
  • Carbon dioxide is changing not only our climate, but also the chemistry of the ocean. About 30% of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. 2 In marine water, carbon dioxide decreases pH and increases acidity through a process known as ocean acidification.
  • Excess nitrogen from sewage treatment plants, polluted stormwater, and fertilizers, is also adding carbon dioxide into nearshore waters through a process known as coastal acidification. 3
  • Nitrogen can fertilize massive algal growth in our waters. When the algal blooms die, decomposition depletes the area of life-giving oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, acidifying the water.

The impacts of climate change are evident right here in Casco Bay

Warmer Waters

Friends of Casco Bay has been tracking water temperatures for over 25 years. On average, our data show a 2.5° F increase in water temperatures since 1993.

Sea Level Rise

As water warms, it expands, and the sea encroaches on our coastline. Coastal observers and property owners are reporting an increase in erosion.

Increasing Precipitation

Maine has seen a six-inch average increase in annual precipitation since 1895, further threatening coastal properties. 4

Threats to the Ocean Food Web

More carbon dioxide in our waters means there is less shell-building material (calcium carbonate) for clams, mussels and oysters, as well as for tiny critters at the base of the ocean food chain. The saturation state of calcium carbonate is a key measurement of shell-building material for many organisms. Shell formation becomes more difficult when the amount of available calcium carbonate falls below a 1.5 saturation state. 5 Our recent data indicate that for nearly half the year, levels of calcium carbonate in Casco Bay are not sufficient for shell-building.

What do these changes mean for Casco Bay?

  • Research Associate Mike Doan with our Continuous Monitoring Station. The Station houses a number of instruments that collect data on carbon dioxide, temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, and pH, hourly, 365 days a year. This large quantity of data is necessary to accurately track changes in the Bay from climate change, including ocean and coastal acidification.

    As marine waters become more acidic, we can anticipate more pitting or dissolution of the shells of many commercially viable species in Casco Bay.

  • Rising water temperatures are linked with shell disease, directly impacting our lobster fishery and tourism industries.
  • Climate change is bad news for clams because green crabs — which eat juvenile shellfish — thrive in warming waters. 6
  • The distribution and populations of marine species in the Gulf of Maine are shifting. Scientists and lobstermen are documenting the shift in distribution of Maine’s iconic lobsters north and east.
  • Copepods are tiny crustaceans that are the main food source for juvenile lobsters. In laboratory experiments, copepods raised in conditions that simulate the climate changes occurring in the Gulf of Maine were less fatty. With a less healthful diet, young lobsters must divert energy from growth and resisting disease to finding enough food to survive. 7

What is Friends of Casco Bay doing?

  • We helped form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate climate change research and policy change work. MOCA is a diverse coalition of researchers, policy experts, lawmakers, aquaculturalists, and seafood harvesters. We are working to create an action plan for Maine to protect the health of our coastal waters.
  • LD 1284 has been selected by the Environmental Priorities Coalition, a group of 34 environmental organizations, as one of its five priority bills to address climate change in Maine.
  • Our Water Reporter volunteers are recording observations of how the Bay is changing. These observations strengthen our advocacy efforts as these reports are shared with regulators, legislators, and other decision makers, alerting them to conditions in the Bay.

What can you do?

  • Tell your legislators to support LD 1284 to create a science and policy advisory council to address the impacts of climate change on Maine’s marine species.
  • Join Water Reporter. Your observations combined with those of other volunteers around the Bay will provide a better understanding of changing conditions.  

References

  1. T.A. Boden, R.J. Andres, G. Marland, Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions, Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics, Appalachian State University, 2017. https://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/emis/overview_2014.html
  2. N. Gruber, D. Clement, R. Feely, et al., The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2 from 1994 to 2007, Science, 2019. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6432/1193
  3. J. Weiss, Marine Pollution: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  4. I. Fernandez, C. Schmitt, E. Stancioff, et al., Maine’s Climate Future: 2015 Update, The University of Maine, 2015. https://mco.umaine.edu/pubs/pdf/mcf-2015.pdf
  5. J. Ekstrom, L. Suatoni, S. Cooley, et al., Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification, Nature, 2015. http://pacshell.org/pdf/Ekstrom_etal2015.pdf
  6. E. Tan, B, Beal, Interactions between the invasive European green crab, Carcinus maenas, and juveniles of the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, in eastern Maine, USA, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2015. https://downeastinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/tan-beal-2015.pdf
  7. Copepods cope with acidification, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, 2018. https://www.bigelow.org/news/articles/2018-04-10.html