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.”
Rick Frantz keeps an eye on Casco Bay as he commutes between his home on Great Diamond Island and Andy’s Old Port Pub, the restaurant that he and his wife Jennifer Fox own on the Portland waterfront. When he sees something out of the ordinary, good or bad, he takes a photo using the Water Reporter app on his smartphone. During his work day, Rick may pause to capture images of an extreme high tide flooding the waterfront or trash adrift in the Bay.
Rick was one of the first friends of Casco Bay to start using the app that is building a network of observers to document, organize, and share their posts. Rick is an incredible ambassador for this volunteer effort. He has been recruiting friends and neighbors to join the observing community.
Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman oversees the program. She says, “Water Reporter is transforming how we connect with our volunteers to identify and help us address threats to the Bay, building a community around clean water.”
Currently, 114 Water Reporters are recording their observations on how the Bay may be changing. These observations can be cause for worry or for celebration. One day, Rick posted a photo of a large accumulation of fish scales floating near a wharf. His report, complete with date, time, and location, led to the Department of Environmental Protection halting unpermitted discharges from a fishing vessel.
Another day, Rick noticed a new patch of eelgrass growing off Diamond Cove, a sign of healthy waters. Having a smartphone or camera at the ready encourages volunteers to capture unusual events, like his neighbor’s sighting of nearly 200 cormorants and gulls herding fish onto the shoreline of Great Diamond Island.
A photo is worth a thousand…
In keeping with our focus on climate change, we encourage volunteers to use Water Reporter to monitor sea level rise. King Tides, the highest tides of the year, give us a glimpse of the future. The photos can 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.
Chesapeake Commons created the Water Reporter app in partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance (of which we are a founding member). Says Erin Hofmann, Data Science and Communications Lead for Chesapeake Commons, “Friends of Casco Bay is one our most active groups in terms of members, number of posts, and ongoing efforts. Water Reporter has been around since 2014. Every winter, posts would slow to a trickle or stop altogether. I couldn’t believe how frequently posts kept rolling in from Maine this winter — bucking our long-held belief that people don’t engage in environmental efforts in the cold months. Leave it to Mainers to get outside, regardless of the weather, to keep the observations flowing!”
The more of us who are keeping watch on the environmental health of the Bay, the better protected our coastal waters can be. Sign up to become part of our observing network or just check on what is being posted at cascobay.org/waterreporter.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Can you think of a better combination than lobster, beer, and the Bay?
On Saturday, May 11, Friends of Casco Bay, Luke’s Lobster, and Allagash Brewing are teaming up to host a community cleanup of Back Cove in Portland from 9 AM to Noon. Afterward, participants are invited to regroup at Portland Pier for a preview of Luke’s Lobster’s new restaurant, set to open on the site this June.
It takes a community to protect our coastal waters. A Coastal cleanup is a great way to work together to take care of our fragile marine environment. Storm Drain Stenciling is a hands‐on way for you to “take to the streets” and create a greater awareness for reducing stormwater pollution.
The litter and marine debris that wind up on our shores come from many sources and we are delighted to work with Luke’s and Allagash to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Join us by registering below.
Note: The cleanup is limited to 60 participants, so don’t forget to sign up in advance!
9:00 – 9:30 AM: sign in, learn about Friends of Casco Bay and get your cleanup supplies
9:30 – 11:45 AM: Cleanup or Stencil Storm Drains
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM: Wrap up
12:30 – 2:00 PM: After-party with food & drink from Luke’s & Allagash Cleanup participants are encouraged to join us at Luke’s Lobster Portland Pier (60 Portland Pier, Portland)
The Back Cove cleanup is part of a partnership between Luke’s and Allagash to clean up oceans and raise awareness for The Keeper Fund, a charitable initiative founded in 2018 by Luke’s Lobster and the Ocean Foundation. The purpose of The Keeper Fund is to invest in projects that spur environmentally friendly economic initiatives along the coast and keep our oceans and waterways clean. Last year, The Keeper Fund made a contribution to the Island Institute in Rockland to further research on the potential for kelp aquaculture to act as a carbon sink. This year, starting on Earth Day, Luke’s Lobster and Allagash will donate $1 to The Keeper Fund for every Allagash White sold at Luke’s, up to $10,000.To date, The Keeper Fund has donated over $18,000 in grants and in-kind donations to support aquaculture-related research and other coastal projects both within and outside of Maine.
And of course, Friends of Casco Bay has its own Keeper, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca, who works year-round, along with volunteers, staff, and partners, to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay.
This event is limited to 60 participants, and we have reached that limit. Please consider signing up as a volunteer here: https://www.cascobay.org/about-us/volunteer.
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
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.
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?
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.
A King Tide is an astronomically high tide. A King Tide is a natural, predictable occurrence that happens a few times a year. This provides the opportunity to envision what our coastal areas may experience as sea levels continue to rise. These extra-high tides can help us spot areas that could be most vulnerable to sea level rise. King Tides are also known as perigean spring tides.
Casco Bay will experience a King Tide on Wednesday, February 20th, at 11:18 AM., which is estimated to reach 11.6 feet. A normal high tide in the Bay ranges from 8 to 10 feet.
We are mobilizing our volunteer Water Reporters to help us document the February King Tide to help our us visualize what sea level rise may mean for our region. Between 10:48 and 11:48 on February 20, our volunteers will don their rainboots and pull out their smartphones to capture this extreme tide using the Water Reporter app.
Water Reporter is an easy-to-use “Instagram-like” tool that enables our volunteers to document, catalogue, organize, and share observations of the Bay. This information is aiding our collaborations with other scientists, expand our community engagement by sharing observations on social media, and helping with our advocacy, to illustrate changes happening around the Bay to regulators, legislators, and other policy makers.
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.