Green crabs, harmful algal blooms (HABs), and great white sharks are drawing increasing attention around Casco Bay. Have these sea creatures always been here? Is climate change influencing their presence?
Changes in coastal chemistry are impacting shellfish populations, while rising seas and other forces are eroding salt marshes. What can we do to protect our vital resources and habitats?
Find out answers to these questions by joining Staff Scientist Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca as they moderate a panel of guest scientists sharing their research on each of these topics in Casco Bay. All panelists will be available to answer your questions after their presentations.
Our panel of guest scientists includes:
Matt Davis, from Maine Department of Marine Resources, monitoring great white sharks
Sara Randall, from Downeast Institute, researching shellfish and coastal chemistry
Marissa McMahan, from Manomet, studying invasive green crabs
Bryant Lewis, from Maine Department of Marine Resources, tracking harmful algal blooms
Matt Craig, from Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, restoring salt marshes
You must register to join this event. We would love for you to join us.
As this year comes to an end, let’s reflect and celebrate the many ways that we worked together to protect the health of Casco Bay in 2021. Here are our top ten stories of the year:
1) We crossed the finish line on our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. More than 700 Friends of the Bay contributed $1.5 million to the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement. These funds enabled us to launch two new Continuous Monitoring Stations in Casco Bay and will support the maintenance of all three of our stations for the next decade.
2) We launched two new Continuous Monitoring Stations. With the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund completed, we launched two new Continuous Monitoring Stations in Casco Bay! This past spring, our new stations splashed down in Harpswell and Portland Harbor, and Staff Scientist Mike Doan walked us through their preliminary data.
3) We successfully advocated for forward-looking climate change legislation Augusta. We were thrilled to see Maine pass legislation to adapt our stormwater, land use, and planning laws to incorporate climate change projections, a top priority of Maine’s Climate Action Plan. Scores of Friends submitted testimony in support of “LD 1572 Resolve, To Analyze the Impact of Sea Level Rise.” If you were one of them, thank you!
4) We celebrated the career and contributions of Cathy Ramsdell. Our former Executive Director, Cathy Ramsdell, retired in September after 18 amazing years at the helm of Friends of Casco Bay. We hosted an outdoor celebration in honor of Cathy at Portland Yacht Services on August 26. At the event, staff and board members shared reflections on Cathy’s leadership and Gulf of Maine poet Gary Lawless read his poem, “For Casco Bay, for Us.”
5) Water Reporter Rick Frantz revealed the impacts of erosion. We have all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but have you ever seen a photo that is worth 17 years? Volunteer Water Reporter Rick Frantz compared photos of Diamond Cove Beach from 2004 and 2021 to reveal the slow work of erosion over nearly two decades.
6) We supported many legislative victories for Maine’s environment and Casco Bay. Casco Bay will be cleaner and healthier, and our communities will be safer due to the many environmental victories passed in Augusta this year. Issues facing the Bay that are being addressed by new policies and laws include: sea level rise, expired marine flare disposal, changing eelgrass and salt marsh habitat, and public coastal access.
7) Water Reporters documented an eelgrass mystery in Casco Bay. Volunteer Water Reporters observed an increase in torn and uprooted eelgrass in Casco Bay between August and September. Eelgrass is critically important to the health of the marine environment as it supports fisheries, maintains water quality, and acts as a carbon sink.
8) Staff Scientist Mike Doan showed us how phytoplankton affect the Bay. Many factors cause seasonal changes in Casco Bay. The activity of phytoplankton is one of them. Looking at data from our Continuous Monitoring Stations we see how these microscopic plants at the base of the marine food web can dramatically change the levels of acidity, oxygen, nutrient availability, and other factors in the Bay.
9) We monitored and supported cleanup efforts after an oil spill closed Willard Beach. It has been a rough few months for Willard Beach in South Portland. In addition to a sewer main break in October, Willard Beach was closed for three days at the end of August to accommodate cleanup efforts and protect public health from an oil spill. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca toured the site of the spill and commended the cleanup efforts led by state, local, and private agencies.
Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca is our watchdog on the health of the Bay. She is on or along the water as much as possible, even in her spare time. But she can’t be everywhere. Ivy says, “We rely upon our volunteers to be our extra eyes on the Bay. Increasingly, volunteers are joining me in using the Water Reporter app to share what they are seeing. These reports make a difference!” Over the span of a year, more than 190 volunteers have made 837 posts about the Casco Bay Watershed.
Here are some examples:
A Water Reporter captured a potential pollution incident–a large accumulation of fish scales in the water. The posting, complete with the time, location, and photo, led to action by a state agency to stop discharges of fish processing wastewater into the Fore River.
In keeping with our focus on climate change, we encourage volunteers to use Water Reporter to monitor sea level rise. Chronicling King Tides, the highest tides of the year, gives us a glimpse of the future. The photos document current coastal flooding, such as submerged streets and eroding beaches. These images help us all visualize what the “new normal” high tides may look like as sea levels continue to rise, such as the disappearing beach at Winslow Park, Freeport, on August 4 and the pier at Little Diamond island on the same date.
Says Ivy, “Water Reporter is a two-way conversation about protecting Casco Bay.” For example, a Water Reporter post on July 10th caught the attention of Angie Brewer of the Marine Unit staff at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP staff went out to investigate themselves. Here’s the post and the exchange with a Water Reporter that followed. Click on the image to be taken to the Water Reporter website for easier reading.
Another DEP staff person, Wendy Garland, Nonpoint Source Program Coordinator, asked for more details after spotting a post by our summer intern Alexis Burns who regularly monitored algae growth at several sites around South Portland last summer.
You can join our Water Reporter network to share observations of things you are seeing on the Bay, both good and bad, all year long. The more of us who are keeping watch on the health of the Bay, the better protected our waters will be.