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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.

A call to action before Tuesday: make your voice heard

Please note: this call to action was for April 2019.

Photograph by Kevin Morris

Casco Bay needs your help! Please take a few minutes to let legislators know you are concerned about climate change and the health of Casco Bay.

On Tuesday, April 2, at 1 p.m., the Committee on Marine Resources of the Maine Legislature is holding a public hearing on a bill we strongly support: LD 1284, “An Act to Create the Science and Policy Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species.”

The bill will establish a council made up of legislators, scientists, resource harvesters, and other stakeholders, with a mission to evaluate the impacts of climate change on Maine’s marine species and to make statewide policy recommendations.

This bill moves Maine to action on addressing and adapting to climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and other threats to the health of our coastal waters. We believe Maine must act now to protect coastal habitats and marine species.

We ask you to urge the Committee on Marine Resources to vote in favor of LD 1284. Let them know you are concerned about climate change and its impacts on Casco Bay and on all of Maine’s marine resources.

Please email the committee by Tuesday morning, April 2.

Committee Members to email:

For a quick and easy way to share your support click here to email the Committee Clerk at MAR@legislature.maine.gov,.

To email the committee members directly, can copy and paste these into the “to” line of your email. This will work better on some devices and email platforms than others.

MAR@legislature.maine.govDavid.Miramant@legislature.maine.gov, Dana.Dow@Legislature.Maine.gov, Eloise.Vitelli@legislature.maine.gov, Jay.McCreight@legislature.maine.gov, Robert.Alley@legislature.maine.gov, Pinny.Beebe-Center@legislature.maine.gov, Lydia.Blume@legislature.maine.gov, William.Faulkingham@Legislature.Maine.gov, Allison.Hepler@Legislature.Maine.gov, Sherman.Hutchins@Legislature.Maine.gov, Kathy.Javner@Legislature.Maine.gov, Genevieve.McDonald@Legislature.Maine.gov, Will.Tuell@legislature.maine.gov, Michael.Russo@Legislature.Maine.gov, Deirdre.Schneider@legislature.maine.gov

Add an subject, being sure to mention that you support LD 1284.

Here are suggested talking points for your email — we strongly recommend that you put these in your own words. Links below provide more information.

Dear Senator Miramant, Representative McCreight, and Members of the Committee on Marine Resources:

I am writing to you to urge you to vote in favor of LD 1284, “An Act to Create the Science and Policy Council on the Impact of Climate Change on Maine’s Marine Species.”

Maine’s coastal waters are changing and changing quickly. Friends of Casco Bay has been tracking water temperatures for over 25 years. On average, the data show a 2.5° F increase in water temperatures since 1993.

About 30% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is being absorbed by the ocean. This is increasing the acidity of our marine waters and reducing the availability of the material (calcium carbonate) that clams, mussels, and other shellfish need to build their shells. Recent data indicate that for nearly half the year, levels of calcium carbonate in Casco Bay are not sufficient for shell-building.

Our marine heritage and economy depend upon healthy coastal waters. The Science and Policy Council that LD 1284 will create will help move Maine forward on addressing and adapting to changes that threaten our marine resources.

Thank you for your time and service to Maine.

Sincerely,

–Your name and town you live in

Once you have emailed the committee, please let us know by emailing me back at keeper@cascobay.org. I will be testifying at the hearing on Tuesday, and it would be great to know that we have your support.

Thank you for making your voice heard for Casco Bay!

 

More information:

We have a wealth of information about the impacts of climate change on Casco Bay: https://www.cascobay.org/climate-change-ocean-acidification-and-you/

LD 1284 was proposed by Representative Lydia Blume (York), who is a member of the Committee on Marine Resources. You can read the official language of the bill here.

LD 1284 has been selected by the Environmental Priorities Coalitiona group of 34 environmental organizations, as one of its five priority bills to address climate change in Maine.

As we shared with you at our Casco Bay Matters event, Governor Mills has proposed an all-encompassing Climate Change Council. Her proposal, which will be considered in separate legislation, will likely incorporate the council created by LD 1284 into a subcommittee of her omnibus council. We support the Governor’s plan and want to be sure that there is adequate focus on the marine environment — which is why it is so important that you make your voice heard on this issue.

Here is the official web page for the Committee on Marine Resources: http://legislature.maine.gov/committee/#Committees/MAR.

You can listen live to the hearing on Tuesday by clicking here: http://legislature.maine.gov/Audio/#206

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

Ocean Acidification, Climate Change, and You: A Casco Bay Matters Event

Climate change is affecting the health of Casco Bay faster than anyone could have predicted. Warming temperatures and increasing acidity threaten the ocean and the livelihoods of those who depend on the sea. Research is showing that changes in our coastal waters from climate change are putting lobstering, clamming, and aquaculture at risk.

Friends of Casco Bay invites you to attend Ocean Acidification, Climate Change, and You, a free event, open to all.

Staff scientist Mike Doan will talk about the warning signs we see in our monitoring data. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca will share some of the impacts to our marine species and how Mainers are working together to respond to these threats. They look forward to your questions following the presentation.

Healthy marine waters are vital to Maine’s economy and quality of life.This is such an important issue that we are hosting this presentation at three locations in the coming weeks: Portland, South Portland, and Brunswick.

Ocean Acidification, Climate Change, and You

Come to the event nearest to you, or all three!

Weather cancellations will be posted here on this page on our website, and our Facebook event page.

All events are free and open to the public.

Portland Event

Monday, March 18, 2019
5:30 – 6:30 pm
Portland Public Library,
5 Monument Way, Portland, ME 04101

Add to Calendar

Please note: this date was listed incorrectly in the Forecaster. March 18 is the correct date.

South Portland Event

Monday, March 25, 2019
5:30 – 6:30 pm
Southern Maine Community College,
Jewett Hall, 77 Fort Rd, South Portland, ME 04106

Add to Calendar

Brunswick Event

Tuesday, April 9, 2019
5:30 – 6:30 pm
Curtis Memorial Library,
23 Pleasant St, Brunswick, ME 04011

Add to Calendar

You can see our Bay Paper on these topics here.

Cover photograph by Kevin Morris