Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly. In the two minute video above, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell announces the public phase of our Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund for Technology, Monitoring, and Community Engagement. We are creating a $1.5 million fund to be used over the next ten years to understand the ways in which our waters are threatened, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change.
The great news is that we are 86% of our way to our goal! You can help push us over the top!
We are delighted to share that Royal River Conservation Trust (RRCT) has selected Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Friends of Casco Bay as recipients of the Conservation Champion Award. Each year, RRCT selects a person or an organization doing exemplary conservation work for this award.
RRCT presented Cathy and our organization with the Conservation Champion Award at a small gathering* at the Littlejohn Island Preserve in Yarmouth Thursday evening.
In his remarks, RRCT Executive Director Alan Stearns said, “Every time I ask people, ‘How can we do a better job? What else should we be doing? What’s important to you as far as the environment and Maine’s conservation community?’ Overwhelmingly, from the beginning, people say, ‘Do you work with Friends of Casco Bay? I wish you’d work more with Friends of Casco Bay.’ Cathy and I have had discussions over the years. We have had big successes and small successes and we have come to realize our work is complementary.”
Alan then gave beautifully-inscribed wooden paddles representing the Conservation Champion Award to Cathy and to Friends of Casco Bay Board Member Ann Thayer, who has long volunteered as our liaison with RRCT.
Royal River Conservation Trust highlighted Friends of Casco Bay’s work in winning a No Discharge Area status for the Bay and upgrading Clean Water Act classifications for parts of our waters, among the reasons why we are Conservation Champions.
“It takes a community to take care of the Bay,” reflected Cathy, as she accepted the award. “The synergy between the work that Royal River Conservation Trust and all the land trusts around the Bay are doing combined with the work those of us are doing on water quality is really important. When we work together we get so much more done. With climate change impacting our communities, the more we do to inspire good land stewardship, the healthier our coastal waters are going to be. It is our collaboration that gives me hope that together, we can continue to confront the impacts of climate change.”
Royal River is one of the five major rivers flowing into the Bay. The river originates in Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester and flows into Casco Bay at Yarmouth. RRTC helps protect the natural, recreational, scenic, agricultural, and historic resources of the Royal River region for current and future generations. Friends of Casco Bay has long monitored water quality in the tidal portion of the Royal and our Continuous Monitoring Station is located in Yarmouth close to the mouth of the river.
Past Conservation Champion Award-winners include Gulf of Maine Research Institute and its President/CEO (and founding President of Friends of Casco Bay!) Don Perkins (2018), and State Senator and former Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Brownie Carson (2019).
* The RRCT event was a small, socially-distanced outside event. Given the pandemic, here are the precautions we undertook:
Everyone at the event wore masks.
The event was outside.
Except for a few photos during extremely brief periods of time, we were 6 to 20 feet or more away from each other the entire time.
The photographer always had a mask on and took all the photos from 6+ feet away.
We used hand sanitizer before and after holding the awards together.
And finally, RRTC collected RSVPs of attendees so that in the unlikely event that something did happen, it will be easy to contact trace.
Our Continuous Monitoring Station has been collecting hourly data on the health of the Bay for more than four years.
Data from the station show that this summer has been the hottest one we have recorded since our “Cage of Science” has been in the water.
This graph compares water temperatures from 2016 to this month. The lavender-colored line represents the daily averages for this year.
Staff Scientist Mike Doan says “The data are concerning. This summer’s temperatures were on average the warmest we have seen at the station.”
You can find the most recent data for all the parameters we measure at our Cage of Science here.
In addition to collecting hourly data, for nearly 30 years, we have been spot-checking sites in the Bay. The temperature data from our three Sentinel Sites (see graph below for annual average, data collected May through October each year) show an upward trend as temperatures in Casco Bay have risen by 2.4° Fahrenheit [1.3° Celsius].
“Casco Bay is changing and changing quickly,” reports Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. “That’s why we have launched the Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund, which will help us put two more Continuous Monitoring Stations in the water, one near Portland and one near Harpswell, and operate all three stations for ten years.”
The $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund will be used over the next decade to understand the ways in which our waters are changing, while we engage the community in assessing and adapting to climate change. Friends of Casco Bay has raised 87% of its goal for the Fund. You can read more about the Fund, our 10-year plan, and make a secure donation here.
On Monday, July 27, 2020, we invite you to join us for a special online event.
Celebrating Water – 30 Years of Friends of Casco Bay A Film, A Poem, and A Conversation with Gary Lawless
We each feel connected to Casco Bay in different ways. As we continue celebrating 30 years of Friends of Casco Bay’s work to protect water quality in the Bay, this event highlights connections between artistic endeavors and the Bay.
Register now to join us online on Monday, July 27, at 5 pm, to see our 30th Anniversary Film and our conversation about the importance of place with bioregional Maine poet Gary Lawless as he shares a special poem. We expect this event will last for 45 minutes.
In this 30 second video, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell invites you to join us to celebrate 30 years of working with you to keep Casco Bay blue!
In honor of this auspicious occasion, we are hosting a couple of online events, and we want you to join us for the first, on Tuesday, June 16. You will hear from our Congressionals, vote our Board of Directors into office, share in our collective successes, and hear about our plans for the decade ahead.
When: Tuesday, June 16, 5 to 6 pm. While the event will begin at 5 pm, please log on and join us earlier as we gather together online, a little before 5 pm, for a special slideshow celebrating 30 years of protecting the health of Casco Bay.
Who should attend: You! Our Annual Meeting is open to the entire community: our members, volunteers, supporters, professional colleagues, and all who love Casco Bay!
Thirty years ago, a small group of concerned citizens formed Friends of Casco Bay after a report identified the Bay as one of the most polluted regions in the nation. Since then, we have used a science-based, community-oriented approach to improve the health of our coastal waters. Our work goes on. And we don’t do this work alone – thank you for your input and support. We look forward to seeing you online on June 16.
Summer is going swimmingly here at Friends of Casco Bay, and we have a lot of good news to share:
Our priority legislative bill to create a state-level Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Council was incorporated nearly word-for-word into the Governor’s comprehensive Climate Change Council bill. An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council passed with strong bipartisan support. In recognition of her yeoman’s work on this issue, Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was invited to attend the bill signing by Governor Janet Mills on June 26th.
Our water quality sampling season is well underway, as we continue to add to our long-term dataset at 22 shoreside and deepwater sites around the Bay. You may see Research Associate Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy making the rounds by land and by sea every few weeks from April through October.
July 20 marks the third anniversary of the launch of our Continuous Monitoring Station in Yarmouth. Our Monitoring Station is fondly nicknamed the “Cage of Science” because its high-tech sensors are housed inside a transformed lobster trap. The instruments measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, and carbon dioxide.
Together, they collect data once an hour, every hour, year round. At this time of year, Mike has to scrape off a new array of marine hitchhikers whenever he hauls up the Cage of Science to download data.
‘Tis the season to think about what not to put on your lawn! With five workshops behind her, Associate Director Mary Cerullo has scheduled another five BayScaping presentations for August and beyond. She is happy to talk with neighborhood groups about green yards and a blue Bay.
There has been such a demand by community groups to volunteer for coastal cleanups and storm drain stenciling projects that Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman and summer intern Alexis Burns have been very busy. They already have hosted seven events with 106 participants who collected an estimated 238 lbs. of trash and stenciled 238 storm drains!
Our new pumpout boat, Headmaster, was launched on June 10th to pump raw sewage from the marine toilets of recreational boats. Captain Jim Splude, our congenial pumpout boat coordinator, can go about his business more efficiently now with a new boat that has more than twice the holding capacity of the old one.
Our Water Reporter volunteer project is expanding as we hoped and planned. Nearly 40 enthusiastic volunteers attended our Water Reporter training on June 24. Volunteers continue to sign up to keep watch over specific areas of the Bay.
July 10 was the first anniversary of Friends of Casco Bay’s launch of the Water Reporter app. To date, 162 volunteers in this observing network have made more than 500 posts. We call that a great start!
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.
We are delighted to share that in January 2018, the City of Portland passed one of the strongest ordinances in the state to restrict pesticide use.
Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell served for nearly a year on a task force to help the city develop the ordinance. She often found herself a fulcrum of the group, reminding everyone of their common purpose to protect Casco Bay. The ordinance is similar to one that South Portland passed in 2016, also thanks in part to Friends of Casco Bay’s advocacy. While state and federalauthoritieshave been slow to protect our waters from these toxic chemicals, we are heartened to see local communities take action.
Why restricting pesticide use is important for the health of the Bay: We have long been concerned about the possible impacts of lawn chemicals—pesticides and fertilizers—on the environmental health of Casco Bay. Our monitoring efforts revealed that the lawn chemicals we are putting on yards can end up in the Bay. Between 2001 and 2009, we collected rain water flowing into the Bay and analyzed the samples for a suite of pesticides. Lab results identified 9 different pesticides in 14 locations all around the Bay. Pesticides do not belong in the Bay, as they have the potential to harm lobsters, fish, and vital habitat.
We see water itself as fundamental habitat. When water quality deteriorates, eelgrass, plankton, clams, and other marine creatures suffer. Thanks to our 25-year data set on water quality in Casco Bay, we now have a better overall understanding of the health of the Bay. We understand when and which areas of the Bay are likely to exhibit challenged water quality conditions.
Armed with this baseline data, we can now begin to address the question How is the Bay changing?—thus, the establishment last year of our first automated Continuous Monitoring Station. We will also continue to monitor selected sites at the surface, to supplement the historical data set compiled by our Citizen Stewards Program. And, we will look more intensively, using surface-to-bottom transects, at those regions of the Bay which present challenged conditions. New data and observations may help us begin to understand how climate change, excess nitrogen, and the changing chemistry of Casco Bay may be impacting the ocean food web.
Our Nabbing Nitrogen event in 2016 signaled to us that there is a huge reservoir of goodwill from people who want to help protect the health of the Bay and are willing to do that in short bursts of data collection efforts. We foresee new volunteer opportunities in this type of data collection, as well as in expanding other community service projects, such as coastal clean-ups, storm drain stenciling efforts, and issue-education events to inspire Champions for the Bay.
Citizen Steward volunteers will continue to be key to our organization as they help us move into this next phase of work to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. Casco Bay belongs to all of us, and this Bay is fortunate to have so many Friends.