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We are a Waterkeeper Alliance founding member

We are a Waterkeeper Alliance founding member

Waterkeeping in the United States began on New York’s Hudson River in 1966 when commercial and recreational fishermen united to save the river from polluters. The success of Hudson Riverkeeper inspired stewardship programs for other water bodies. Friends of Casco Bay became the seventh Waterkeeper program in the nation when Joe Payne became the first Casco Baykeeper in 1991. In 1999, these pioneers, along with environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., formed a coalition, Waterkeeper Alliance. Now, 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.

A Waterkeeper is a full-time, privately-funded, non-governmental advocate for a particular water body.  Waterkeepers differ from other environmental advocates in that they must have a boat to patrol their water body. While they may do education and community engagement, they must be ready to stand up to protect their bay, river, lake or bayou on the public’s behalf. 

The Waterkeeper concept evolved from gamekeepers during the Middle Ages in Great Britain, who were responsible for maintaining private trout and salmon streams for wealthy landowners. The American interpretation of this role is much more egalitarian, as Waterkeepers safeguard our waterways for everyone. 


Baykeeping means being on the water

Our Baykeeper vessel R/V Joseph E. Payne provides a safe and reliable platform for investigating pollution incidents, maintaining visibility in the community, and conducting scientific studies and data collection year-round.

When concerned citizens call us about a fish kill or a nuisance algal bloom, we take to our boat to check oxygen levels in the area. We use our Baykeeper boat to look for the source of illegal discharges and leaking pipes. Our boat gives us the opportunity to provide stakeholders with a water-level view of issues we feel merit public attention.

While our 28-foot Baykeeper vessel is our most visible boat, we maintain a small fleet of other boats to get us wherever we need to be on the Bay. 

How is Friends of Casco Bay different from other Waterkeeper programs

Many Waterkeeper programs around the world have to rely on lawsuits and fines to bring polluters into compliance with environmental regulations. Friends of Casco Bay’s Baykeeper Program emphasizes collaboration over confrontation. Our first step is always to bring stakeholders together to try to find collaborative solutions. This “work with” approach is grounded in the shared environmental values of those who live, work, and play on Casco Bay. 

Our science-based advocacy has earned us the credibility to raise troubling issues, ask the hard questions, and bring together disparate stakeholders to take action on threats to the Bay, such as oil spills, polluted runoff, and cruise ship discharges.

The bottom line is to stop pollution using whatever tools are necessary and successful.

Photograph by Kevin Morris