2014 Annual Meeting

Published by Anna Farrell on

Minutes of the Frenchman Bay Partners Annual Meeting, February 1, 2014

Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) Dahlgren Hall

Anna Farrell, AmeriCorps Environmental Steward

 

This meeting was not televised, but it was videotaped. Links to videos are embedded in document.

Present:

  • Duncan Bailey (MDIBL)
  • Jordan Bailey (MDIBL)
  • Abby Barrows (MERI Research)
  • Antonio Blasi (Hancock County Commissioner)
  • Andrea Boissevain (Individual)
  • Brian Chick (Local Filmmaker)
  • Myrna Coffin (Hancock liaison)
  • Keri Conlon (Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce)
  • Aidan Coyne (BangorHigh School)
  • Jock Crothurs (Individual)
  • Bob DeForrest (MaineCoast Heritage Trust)
  • Andrea DeFrancesco (Ironbound Seaweed)
  • Jane Disney (MDIBL)
  • Ed Monat (Scuba Diver)
  • Anna Farrell (AmeriCorps/MDIBL)
  • Mark Fletcher (Aquaterra Adventures)
  • Peggy Forester (Shorefront Property Owner)
  • Jenn Fortier (City of Ellsworth)
  • Emma Fox (Former AmeriCorps/MDIBL)
  • Sarah Hall (Individual)
  • Anne Cox Halkett (MDIBL)
  • Maddelyn Harden (MERI Research)
  • Elli Hartig (MDIBL)
  • Brad Haskell (Eastern MaineCommunity College)
  • Matt Gerald (Sweet Pea Farms)
  • Joe Kelley (University of Maine)
  • George Kidder (MDIBL)
  • Anne LaBossiere (Lamoine)
  • David Legere (Aquaterra Adventures)
  • Edna Martin (Captain Evil)
  • Bridie McGreavy (University of Maine)
  • Diane Nicholls (Lamoine liaison)
  • Jim Norris (Shellfish harvester)
  • Cynthia Ocel (Bar Harbor Conservation Commission)
  • Erin Owen (HussonUniversity)
  • Robin Owings (Individual)
  • Tom Perekslis (Individual)
  • Chris Petersen (COA)
  • Bob Pulver (Lamoine)
  • Brian Reilly (Cardno/Entrix)
  • Jack Russell (Individual)
  • Tom Sidar (FrenchmanBay Conservancy)
  • Iris Simon (Lamoine)
  • Toby Stephenson (COA)
  • Ted Taylor (BangorHigh School)
  • Terry Towne (MaineCoast Heritage Trust)
  • Jessie Whelpley (MERI Research Institute)
  • Charlie Wray (MDIBL)

Jane Disney, Ph.D., called the meeting to order at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) Maren Auditorium at approximately 9:00AM.

1.      Dedication and Introduction

Jane Disney dedicated the meeting to Bridie McGreavy, PhD, who has been instrumental in getting the Frenchman Bay Partners up and running as part of her graduate thesis work at the University of Maine. Jane introduced former and present AmeriCorps volunteers, Emma Fox and Anna Farrell, and oriented attendees to the agenda.

2.      Overview of Frenchman Bay Partners Progress in 2013 and Plans for 2014:

Emma Fox, formerly of AmeriCorps/MDIBL, gave an overview of what the Frenchman Bay Partners accomplished in 2013. She mentioned the following: success of the first annual meeting, election of the first executive committee, creation of subcommittees, goal setting sessions, and the implementation of an Internet presence through the website (www.frenchmanbaypartners.org) and in social media (i.e. Facebook and Twitter).

Emma discussed subcommittee targets and accomplishments from 2013 in detail. The Mudflats Committee focused on reopening mudflats closed to harvest, collaborating with the Regional Shellfish Committee in this endeavor. Capacity building toward conducting shoreline and watershed surveys was facilitated by the ”Project 610” grant from Maine Community Foundation.  Eelgrass restoration was thwarted in 2013 by a widespread loss of eelgrass throughout Frenchman Bay; the reason remains unidentified, although invasive green crabs are thought to have contributed to the decline. The creation of the website www.eelgrassinmaine.org engaged the community in a collaborative eelgrass mapping effort. The goal of maintaining water quality at 3-4 meters of transparency, formulated in 2013, remains. Live mapping was utilized to aid the conversation of restoration among bay users and led to the creation of an informal conservation agreement between mussel harvesters and eelgrass restorers.   Benthic conditions were monitored using a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) by members of the Benthic Habitats Committee. The Diadromous Fishes Committee worked on alewife monitoring and the investigation of potential projects to promote fish passage.

Emma welcomed new partners and mentioned that most municipalities around FrenchmanBay have signed on as partners. She talked about the possibility of using a market based approach to FrenchmanBay in the future and the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss the option in a breakout session that afternoon. Emma spoke to the audience of the future, citing the need for further development of the action plan, revision of subcommittee goals, and implementation of monitoring plans, securing funds for future sustainability, and branding of Frenchman Bay Partners.

3.       “Sea-Level Rise and its Past Impacts on Frenchman Bay”:

Joseph T. Kelley, Ph.D., University of Maine, School of Earth and Climate Sciences, gave the first presentation of the day. He began his presentation with a geologic map of Maine showing the location of 350 million year old bedrock. He spoke of the influence of erosion, earthquakes, and glaciers on the landscape. A marine invasion, caused by the weight of glacial ice pushing down on earth’s crust, was part of the reason sea level was 200 feet higher 15,000 years ago. When the glaciers receded, they left moraines, which crossed embayments, impeding drainage, and forming lakes and wetlands.

Dr. Kelley talked about the various methods and technologies used to determine where sea level was thousands of years ago and to recreate the landscape. These methods include seismic reflection and side scan sonar for viewing the bottom and bottom layers, and vibracoring, used to collect core samples of underwater sediments. These methods have led to findings around the area, such as methane deposits off MDI, information regarding the composition of the sea floor off Sand Beach in Acadia National Park (glacial deposits and shells), and identification of a Native American settlement near Bass Harbor where scallop draggers have picked up Native American tools.

The sea level is rising, Dr. Kelley went on, and the coast is eroding. He cited locations where this is evident: Reversing Falls in Sullivan, Maine, and Jones Creek on MDI. He concluded his talk by mentioning the possibility of applying for status as an estuary reserve through the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, designated and funded by NOAA, in an effort to further understand the area.

See Dr. Kelley’s presentation HERE

4.       “Historical Ecology of Frenchman Bay”:

Charles Wray, Ph.D., Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, presented on the state of Frenchman Bay over the past few hundred years. He began by describing the ample cod populations in FrenchmanBay, particularly from 1790 to the Civil War, when the federal government supported the cod fishery. As a result, fishermen recorded everything they did, and these archives remain, giving us great insight into species and population numbers in the bay. William Procter, an investment banker and naturalist who worked both independently and with MDIBL in the 1920s, conducted a biological survey of the MountDesert region cataloguing an incredible diversity of ground fish, mollusks, and more in FrenchmanBay. (View the biological survey HERE .)

In an effort to determine what the fishing grounds look like now, MDI Bio Lab (MDIBL), Southern Maine Community College (SMCC), and University of New Hampshire (UNH) collaborated on a fishing project using Roger Woodman’s boat the Alert as a research platform.  They took the vessel out in the bay in 2010 and 2011 and fished like fisherman would have in the 1800s. They used thousands of hooks and caught approximately 15 fish over the course of four days. The conclusion? There are not a lot of fish in the bay.

An additional survey, also a collaboration between MDIBL and SMCC took place in 2013. They surveyed seven sites that had been sampled during the Procter Survey, using a benthic grab sampler. In addition, they used a ROV document the bottom on video. The survey revealed the presence of horse mussels, invasive tunicates, scallops, sand dollars, crabs, and anemones, but no fish. In comparing Procter’s data from Bald Rock and the data from this survey, there was only one species cross-listed, the chalky bivalve. Charlie made sure to mention the differences in technology available to Procter and to the 2013 study.

Dr. Wray also brought up modern cod populations. He showed a map indicating three different spawning complexes of cod in the region: Northern, Southern, and Georges Bank. An informal question arose from the data: is there a connection between the benthic ecology of Frenchman Bay and the disappearance of fish species such as cod and haddock?

Watch Dr. Wray’s presentation HERE

5.       “Underwater Observations of Frenchman Bay: Then and Now”:

Eddie Monat (aka Diver Ed), Scuba Diver, introduced himself as a graduate of COA and began with a video footage taken on his dives of the “Cauliflower Garden”, a unique area in Frenchman Bay with numerous anemones.  He has been diving since 1984, mostly commercially, harvesting scallops, urchins, and sea cucumbers. He now runs the very popular dive-in theater in Frenchman Bay, a marine education boat cruise. He had a great deal to say about what he sees on his dives, most notably decreases in fish and other species, even populations of “trash fish”, for example, sculpin, are in decline.  However, he has been seeing baby flounder quite regularly, though few adult sized flounder. When he sees “something odd”, such as an adult flounder, he remarked that he wonders where the rest of them are. He has observed the decline of the following species: starfish, anemones, blood stars, and sponges, species that used to be all over the bay. Other species populations are growing: lobsters, large shrimp, and invasive tunicates. Lobsters, he reported, are becoming more aggressive, even ripping other species apart rather than scavenging. Green crabs are starting to work their way into deeper water. Jellyfish populations are cyclical. Googins Ledge, one of the most special places in Frenchman Bay according to Diver Ed, saw species such as scallops, sea mice (bristle worms with iridescent bristles), anemones, and more reappear when dragging for scallops in Frenchman Bay stopped, but disappeared when dragging started up again. There are pockets of diverse habitats in the bay, mostly where commercial boats cannot work. These include areas south of the Porcupine Islands, parts of the Skillings River and Trenton Bay, and various other locations.

View Diver Ed’s talk HERE

COFFEE BREAK

6.      Panel Discussion of the State of Frenchman Bay’s Bottom Habitats and Related Fisheries:

Dr. Wray and Dr.  Kelley made up the panel and Jane Disney began the discussion by drawing attention to the question of archiving data. Joe suggested GIS as one method for archiving, which allows the user to systematically add layers upon layers of information in maps. He mentioned numerous free products that can be used. Dr. Wray spoke of the creation of an Estuarine Research Reserve in this bioregion, citing that with the amount of representation in the room, the Frenchman Bay Partners is the perfect organization to push this. Jane brought up the point that Wells Estuarine Reserve in Wells, Maine does not receive state funding; its formation was funded by a private non-profit organization. It would be odd if Frenchman Bay Partners could get the state to support an Estuarine Reserve here without looking at the site in Wells, where the state has not committed to funding. Ideally, an Estuarine Research Reserve would bring people to the area for research as well as outreach and education. Jane talked about Frenchman Bay Partners taking initiative. She suggested that we should use this diversity of partners as traction in applying for grants and garnering letters of support.

Toby Stephenson, of COA, suggested implementing a program to produce baseline, time series data. He offered the COA boat as a vessel for equipment, and implied the cost of equipment would be the biggest investment. Dr, Wray reiterated that baseline, time series data is critical, but also difficult to fund. Jock Crothurs pointed out that the DMR keeps records when they sample for shellfish poisoning. George Kidder brought up the issue of long term monitoring and funding, asking where the long term funding is going to come from. Dr. Wray answered that citizen scientists can measure temperature and salinity and collect data. There are plug-ins that transfer data from an iPhone to a database, for example. He said professional collection might not be possible. Questions about who would host and monitor such a website and finding a stable and logical place among the partners to do so would need to be determined. Someone mentioned coordinating with Diver Ed, collecting his knowledge, along with maps and videos, to put on the website as a sort of baseline data. Dr. Kelley pointed out that anecdotal evidence cannot really be used, but in the past he has received grant money to train homeowners how to measure beaches. Even when the grant funding ran out, they continued to gather and upload data.

Jenn Fortier asked if the Procter study Dr. Wray referenced was just a list of species. He answered that it contained limited data on quantity (Procter used the quantifiers “rare”, “present”, and “abundant”). The study contained information on where a species was present, how it was collected, and the date. We could catalogue these species and put the data into GIS. Jane then brought up the value in collecting data and archiving it for future generations, but also mentioned the difficulty of making it accessible. How can Frenchman Bay Partners facilitate that? Who are the lead partners? We should set a time frame.

The discussion then turned ecosystem changes, but quickly broadened to where to find relevant information regarding the changing landscape. Chris Petersen, COA, spoke about the middens in Southern Maine, which contain records of bill fish (cod, etc). Tide pool information from the last hundred years, with good data (pictures, abundance, and species distribution) can also be found. Dr. Wray suggested putting together a historical/biological/geological meeting centered around shifts in species distribution and find people who have been studying these areas for their entire careers. Dr. Kelley added that the shape of the Gulf of Maine is changing as sea level rises, bringing about tremendous ecological changes (water column temperatures, species distribution, etc). An oceanographic piece to add to the mix is the Eastern Maine countercurrent, which is affecting Frenchman Bay. The countercurrent brings things from Down East to the west and isolates certain species in the bay at some level. It is a dynamic current, so how does it change from year to year, particularly regarding Frenchman Bay?

It was suggested that monitoring become a citizen science project. For example, a citizen might take a picture on a certain day of a specific area(s) to see what changes from year to year. This led into questions about the eelgrass decline: was ice a factor? Are the clammers reporting seeing the green crab die back? Jim Norris, a shellfish harvester, said though some of the crabs bury into the ground and stay there, a lot move out into deeper water during the winter. He doesn’t believe the eelgrass will come back until something is done about these crabs. They cut the grass off where the root meets the plant. Lobster sized traps are bringing up 200-300 pounds of crabs more than once a day. Shellfish wise, green crabs are doing a number on the small stuff, so the shellfish don’t even have a chance to mature. Jim said there might be a market for green crabs eventually, and there is research going on for different uses. Dr. Wray asked if artificial bait can be made from green crabs for lobsters. Jim responded that making artificial bait is iffy, but there is an Asian market for live crabs. Additionally, he has heard of chitin being removed from the shell to resell for other purposes. The conversation took a turn when someone asked, “Do we really want green crabs sustained in our community?” By building a market around them, we’re creating an incentive to sustain them, not eliminate them. Perhaps a better eradication method revolves around monetary incentive, for example, putting a bounty on the green crab.

View Panel Discussion HERE

LUNCH BREAK

7.      Breakout Session 1: Meet Committee Members:

The following subcommittees met with interested meeting participants to recruit new members and discuss projects: Eelgrass, Benthic Habitats, Communications, Mudflats, and Diadromous Fishes.

8.      Breakout Session 2: Market Based Approaches to Conservation:

Brian Reilly, of Cardno/Entrix, facilitated a conversation focused on market based approaches to conservation. He began by having group members brainstorm ecosystem services, the criteria which the market based approach model depends on. Ecosystem services include physical resources, human services, cultural benefits, regulating benefits, and more. They are not always obvious. When you put a value on ecosystem services, you begin to put a price on both positive contributions of an ecosystem and the economic impact of losing that contribution. Brian explained that a market based approach puts sometimes abstract statements, such as “water quality is being diminished” into more understandable, accessible language, like “water quality is being negatively affected by X, but it’s also affecting Y and Z. Here are some monetary values that demonstrate this”. The process begins with a study to identify ecosystem services, which means talking to stakeholders and community members, followed by an economic analysis.

The main concern group members brought up was how a market based approach would affect the local community. For example, placing value on an area attracts people who might not have taken a second look at the area before. What is the ultimate community impact? Individuals in the group cautioned against unanticipated consequences of such an approach, but seemed willing to talk more about the idea.

Reilly went on to explain how all services are interconnected, even some we consider free (i.e. clean air and scenery). He suggested monetary programs, such as a land trust/conservation tax and partnering with local businesses, and using profits from such a tax to help small businesses promote environmentally sound decisions or fund the Frenchman Bay Partners in some capacity. The bottom line? What is a way that we can use a market-based approach to benefit Frenchman Bay and ensure a sustainable future?

For more information about a market based approach, click HERE

 9.      Breakout Session 3: FBP Website 101! Exploring the Site and Posting Events:

Duncan and Jordan Bailey showed interested people how to register as a Frenchman Bay Partner at www.frenchmanbaypartners.org and use basic functions like the dashboard and forum on the website. Any partner can use the website as a platform for posting events, emailing other partners, adding projects to the website, and other similar things. Four new partners signed on:

  • Jock Crothers
  • Mark Fletcher
  • Cynthia Ocel
  • Toby Stephenson

10.  Wrap Up and Next Steps:

Jane wrapped the day up by welcoming the new partners. She urged people to sign up for committees that interest them, assuring partners that these committees are not binding and people can commit to them at whatever level they feel comfortable. She mentioned that a survey about the day would be forthcoming.

On Wednesday, February 5, 2014, a Science Café hosted by MDIBL will be held at McKay’s Public House in Bar Harbor at 5:30PM. Jane Disney and Charlie Wray will be making a presentation, Is There a Sustainable Future for Frenchman Bay?

The next steps for Frenchman Bay Partners as a group involve a number of things. Getting the Benthic Habitats committee up and running is important. This will require identifying areas we can study over time, figuring out how harvesting is affecting the bottom of Frenchman Bay, and holding an area management conversation on a bay level. This means bringing different groups together and creating spaces for convening where discussions facilitated by Frenchman Bay Partners can be held.

The Diadromous Fishes Committee has decided to focus on alewives and other diadromous fishes rather than addressing elvers at this point in time.

Rockweed harvesting is a current issue to pay attention to. The Communications Committee was charged with the task of posting relevant events/meetings/information regarding topics like rockweed, so Frenchman Bay Partners can follow the debate.

The Maine Island Trail Association would like to see a more collaborative approach on cleaning up the region. A spring cleanup, in addition to the existing fall cleanup, was suggested. A Clean Waters, Clean Shores meeting is being held at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust office on March 4, 2014 at 11AM. Frenchman Bay Partners were encouraged to attend and bring back information to post on the website. In that vein, Jordan Bailey requested that all partners utilize the website by putting up events and projects so other partners can get involved!

Following up the initial market based approach to conservation conversation, Jane mentioned the role of Frenchman Bay Partners in facilitating further conversations regarding the initiative.

 

2:30PM MEETING ADJOUNRED