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Baykeeping

Baykeeping is our mission put into practice: acting to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our Baykeeping program exists to advocate for solutions to environmental challenges facing the Bay. In short, Baykeeping is about reducing pollution and addressing climate change. This is our most visible program and it has generated significant permanent and positive changes for the Bay.

When Friends of Casco Bay formed in 1989, it was with the recognition that a dedicated community was needed to care for our coastal waters. Scientists and researchers had discovered Casco Bay held loads of heavy metals, pesticides, and bacteria, as well as legacy contaminants from historic industries. The Bay lay at a tipping point. Powerful legislation like the Clean Water Act was in place, but science and laws alone were not sufficient to protect the health of Casco Bay; the Bay needed a voice to speak on its behalf. 

Our Baykeeping program exists to be that voice. Led by our chief advocate – the Casco Baykeeper – our dedicated staff, volunteers, and members work together to improve and protect the health of the Bay. We lend the Bay our voices in conversations with our neighbors, advocate for its needs in town halls and the state legislature, and work with businesses and environmental agencies to promote clean water policies and practices. 

At Friends of Casco Bay, our Baykeeping is guided by a passion for clean water, common decency, the regulatory environment, and science. We “listen” to the Bay as we monitor water quality and collect data to identify threats to the health of our coastal waters. This dynamic combination of science and advocacy, as well as our “work with” approach, led to the historic clean-up of the Julie N oil spill, designation of Casco Bay as a federal No Discharge Area, closure of a toxic paper mill, and the reduction of pesticide and nitrogen pollution along the Bay’s coast. These are just a few of the victories won by our Baykeeping program for the health of Casco Bay. 

Today, our science finds the Bay lies at a tipping point once again, as it faces a range of threats from local human impacts to global climate change. Every step of the way, our Casco Baykeeper and community will be there, serving as the eyes, ears, and voice of Casco Bay.

Climate Change

Photograph by Dave Dostie

Across the world seas are rising, waters are warming, and oceans are acidifying. More intense storms batter our coasts with higher storm surges. Marine life faces shifting habitat ranges and increasing prevalence of disease. Casco Bay is no exception. As part of the Gulf of Maine, water temperatures in Casco Bay are rising faster than 99% of the world’s oceans. Because Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly, our Baykeeping must be adaptive and nimble. Responding to the impacts of climate change is our greatest challenge.

Stormwater Pollution

Stormwater runoff is a major source of pollution to Casco Bay. The Bay’s watershed begins over 60 miles away in Bethel, draining land that passes through many of Maine’s most densely populated areas. The rivers and streams that ultimately flow into Casco Bay collect runoff that contains a toxic mixture of car exhaust from our streets, fertilizers and pesticides from our lawns, and even raw sewage from our wastewater systems. As climate change brings more intense storms to Maine, these stormwater pollutant loads will likely increase.

Nitrogen Pollution 

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient found in all life forms and ecosystems. A healthy amount of nitrogen encourages algal growth in Casco Bay and supports the base of the food chain. Too much nitrogen from industrial agriculture, municipal wastewater, car exhaust, and lawn fertilizers causes excessive algal growth that harms the health of the Bay. As our waters warm and intense storms flush higher quantities of nitrogen into coves, we are seeing more nuisance algal blooms and their harmful impacts on the Bay.

Casco Baykeeper

“Being the Casco Baykeeper is a way of life. It’s fundamental to who I am and stems from a life-long, deep connection to water. As Baykeeper it’s my responsibility to improve and protect the health of Casco Bay, serve as its voice, and act as its chief advocate.” – Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper

Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper Photograph by Kevin Morris

The Casco Baykeeper leads our Baykeeping Program. Ivy describes her role as the “Lorax” of the Bay, acting as the eyes, ears, and voice of Casco Bay. As Casco Baykeeper, Ivy is one of hundreds of Waterkeepers around the world who have dedicated themselves to speaking for their local waters. Collectively they form the Waterkeeper Alliance, of which Friends of Casco Bay is a founding member. 

Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper groups around the world, focusing citizen action on issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. The Waterkeeper movement patrols and protects over 2.75 million square miles of rivers, lakes, and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. For more information, please visit waterkeeper.org. 

You might see the Casco Baykeeper out on the Bay in our Baykeeper boat, the Research Vessel Joseph E. Payne, monitoring water quality and investigating citizen concerns. When not on the water, Ivy is often working with individuals, community leaders, business owners, and decision makers to keep the health of the Bay front-and-center, at all times. The Casco Baykeeper is a full-time advocate, working to ensure compliance with environmental laws, educating the public, and informing policy development.

Ivy has a life-long connection to Maine’s coast and has lived in the Casco Bay region for over 30 years. Ivy combines her passion for our coastal waters with decades of experience in environmental and marine advocacy. Before joining Friends of Casco Bay, Ivy was an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation where she worked on marine issues affecting Maine and New England. At every step of Ivy’s career – and her life – clean water has been at the center.

Listening to Casco Bay: the Clean Water Act, Climate Change, and More

November 8, 2022

We recently hosted an informative and thought provoking conversation at Listening to Casco Bay: the Clean Water Act, Climate Change, and More.  Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Staff Scientist Mike Doan walked us through our latest data on the health of the Bay and shared their observations from the 2022… Read more

Up the Watershed; Protecting the Presumpscot protects the Bay

October 16, 2022

  Friends of Casco Bay is working with Friends of the Presumpscot River and others to better understand water quality in the Presumpscot River, the largest river that flows into Casco Bay. This river drains 648 square miles, approximately two-thirds of the entire Casco Bay watershed. From its headwaters at… Read more

2022: A Magical Season on Casco Bay

October 10, 2022

Out and About with the Casco Baykeeper by Ivy Frignoca In 2020 and 2021, with social contact limited and meetings mostly via Zoom, Staff Scientist Mike Doan and I continued monitoring water quality and worked hard to improve and protect our beloved Bay. What we missed was time with friends… Read more