Category Archives: FBP Projects

Frenchman Bay Partners will be carrying out the projects defined in the goals of the Frenchman Bay Plan. Current projects include Community Outreach and Education, Conservation, and producing a Frenchman Bay Plan, a State of the Bay Report, and a Frenchman Bay Atlas.

New Eelgrass Restoration Methods Trialed

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The Community Environmental Health Laboratory (CEHL) tried four new methods of restoring eelgrass this past summer. The season began with the tried and true method of tying eelgrass plants onto wooden, biodegradable grids strung with twine. The up front time required to construct the grids with string and make ties from floral tape prompted the development of further prototypes.  We next tried weaving plants through pieces of burlap stretched across the same biodegradable grids. We quickly realized the time required to weave eelgrass into the burlap on shore was too much.  At the scale CEHL hoped to restore, both the string and the burlap grid methods necessitated too much time and effort.

Students in the Young Environmental Leaders Program created a burlap “restoration runner” weighted with sandbags. Eelgrass was woven into the seven foot long runners. Another method involved tying eelgrass onto metal washers, which were dropped from the boat into the water at the restoration site. In an effort to move away from the potential environmental impact of metal washers and decrease the cost of restoration, CEHL tried using rocks instead of washers.

To date, we have used frames with eelgrass tied to strings, frames with eelgrass woven into burlap, burlap without frames with eelgrass woven in, eelgrass tied to washers, and eelgrass tied to rocks.  We are working on a seeding method.  Seeding plants have been collected and are maturing in a flow-through seawater tank. Eelgrass restoration methods will continue to evolve as different challenges arise.


Population Genetics of the Invasive European Green Crab, Carcinus maneas and its Role in Eelgrass Loss in the Gulf of Maine

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Mary Badger, Smith College


CrabGraph.jpgAbstract: In 2013, there was a devastating loss of eelgrass (Zoestra marina) in upper Frenchman Bay, Mount Desert Island, Maine. This study examined the relationship between the most recent invasion of novel haplotypes of the European Green Crab (Carnicus maneas) and the decline of eelgrass in upper Frenchman Bay. While C. maneas is an invasive species that has been present in the Gulf of Maine for over 100 years, a second invasion of C. maneas in Nova Scotia occurred during the 1980s and 1990s, bringing novel haplotypes of the species that have been cited to be more cold tolerant and voracious as compared to other haplotypes.  The presence of these new haplotypes has been hypothesized to be a contributing factor to habitat destruction along the Maine coast. In 2013, northern haplotypes of green crab were documented in upper Frenchman Bay where the eelgrass had disappeared. In order to assess this relationship, the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) haplotype of the crabs at sites around Mount Desert Island was determined as well as the abundance of the eelgrass at corresponding study sites. The study did not find a significant correlation between the presence of northern green crab haplotypes and eelgrass abundance at the study sites. This indicates that the status of eelgrass health is not dependent on the genetic composition of green crabs that are present.  It is more likely that factors such as green crab abundance or water quality are contributing to the declining health of eelgrass beds along the Maine coast.

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Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) loss in Maine: An investigation into possible causes

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Alden Dirks, Swarthmore College

Abstract: Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) supplies myriad ecosystem services that make it an indispensable cornerstone of coastal environments. The complete disappearance of eelgrass in upper Frenchman Bay, Mt. Desert Island (MDI), Maine, in 2013 matched a precipitous drop in the concentration of dissolved silica (DSi). Eelgrass in outer Frenchman Bay and other locations around MDI appeared to be intact; however there were no DSi data to compare with upper Frenchman Bay locations. To investigate the relationship between eelgrass health and DSi, we determined eelgrass abundance and biomass at six locations around MDI. Furthermore, we measured dissolved nutrient concentrations in the water column as well as tensile strength and nutrient composition of tissue samples. We found a positive relationship between eelgrass abundance and biomass, and a positive relationship between biomass and the concentration of nitrite and nitrate. In addition, tensile strength was significantly different across the six sample sites. However, neither abundance nor tensile strength was significantly correlated with nutrient composition of the plants or water quality.  These results reveal a deeper complexity to the issue of eelgrass abundance and tensile strength that requires further nuanced investigation into other factors such as local geography, oceanographic currents, and sediment type as they relate to eelgrass viability.

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Green Crabs in Frenchman Bay: The Continuing Saga

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Everyone has been hearing a lot about green crabs and their destructive nature these days.  Frenchman Bay definitely has its share of them.  Green crabs are an invasive species from Europe that were unintentionally introduced to the Eastern shores of America in the 1800s. Their numbers have been increasing ever since.


Maine Sea Grant sponsored a Green Crab Summit at University of Maine in December 2013.  Many Frenchman Bay Partners were in attendance.  The presentations provided a lot of detail about green crabs, their life history, and their impacts on shellfish populations and as well as salt marshes and seagrass beds.  They can be viewed at Several Frenchman Bay Partners, including representatives of the Bar Harbor Shellfish Committee, MDI Bio Lab, and Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Committee participated in a  one-day, state-wide survey of green crabs last summer, focusing their sampling efforts in Bar Harbor, Lamoine, Trenton, Sorrento and Sullivan.  The results of the survey can be found on the Maine DMR website .  The report concludes that green crabs are present throughout the state and in numbers that represent a detrimental impact to bivalve shellfish.

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Population Genetics of Invasive Green Crab

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Click here to access an academic poster by Bates College student Camilla Nivison, and advisors Larissa Williams and William Ambrose detailing the population genetics of invasive green crab, Carcinus maenas, in the Gulf of Maine.

One of the most successful marine invaders, Carcinus maenas has established populations on all temperate coasts. The past few years have seen a surge in the abundance of C. maenas and their impacts on coastal communities from Long Island to Nova Scotia, which may reflect a new strain of C. maenas introduced into the region from Northern Europe. As a marker of genetic diversity and gene flow between populations, I studied haplotypes caused by silent mutations of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I (COI) gene. I found the highest genetic diversity in the northern sites (NS: h=0.7619). Pairwise comparisons show Nova Scotia and Mt. Desert populations are genetically more differentiated from the other populations (NS: FST=0.4201 , MDI: FST=0.1448) likely caused by the recent invasion to Nova Scotia, which has subsequently spread south.


MDIBL Receives $239k Grant for Eelgrass Restoration

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded the Mount Desert Island Bio Lab a grant of $239,000 for eelgrass restoration in Frenchman Bay. The grant will enable the Lab and its partners to restore an additional 214 acres of subtidal habitat off Lamoine, Bar Harbor, and Trenton over the next two years.
The grant is the first to be awarded in Maine under the Estuary Habitat Restoration Act of 2000 and one of only two to have ever been awarded in New England. The Army Corps grant will fund two years of restoration and research activity in Frenchman Bay and two AmeriCorps positions at MDIBL.
“With the Army Corps’ support, we will be able to ramp up our research and restoration efforts substantially,” said Jane Disney, director of the Community Environmental Health Laboratory at MDIBL and president of Frenchman Bay Partners. “Our goal is a productive and sustainable future for Frenchman Bay. By restoring eelgrass, we will improve the bay’s economic productivity as well as its biodiversity.”

DMR Proposes Swipe Cards for Elver Harvesters

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Fyke Nets 3

In what could have sweeping effects through the elver industry, the DMR has proposed regulations that would require elver dealers to use a swipe-card reporting system, and to maintain records of all elver transactions. This regulation would allow the DMR to keep better tabs on the number of elvers caught in Maine, and would also make it more difficult to sell or purchase poached elvers.

You can read the full proposal here on the DMR website.

Mudflat project updates

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At College of the Atlantic, students have been developing protocols for measuring the pH on clamflats, and comparing different meters to see which ones are the most precise, and this fall will measure pH on several flats in Bar Harbor. One student, Katie O’Brien, has also buried clam pre-weighed clam at three different sites in look at rate of weight loss of shells as a measurement of the potential threat to clam growth from low pH on clamflats. Those clams are being collected in October and if the technique shows promise, the study will be expanded next year.
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Diadromous fish dispatches

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Frenchman Bay Partners is working closely with both the Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Inland Fish and Wildlife Service to develop fish-run restoration projects that will have the highest impact. In the last year, the groups set up monitoring on Flanders stream and examined Jones Stream as a possible next site for restoration in the bay.

Before Frenchman Bay Partners ever got started, individual partners were doing stream restoration to enhance diadromous fish populations. Sullivan resident Gary Edwards, who is now a Frenchman Bay Partner, spearheaded the Flanders Stream Alewife Restoration project, which involved opening a culvert and installing fish ladder in the stream. The project was completed this year and alewives could be seen moving up the stream in good numbers. Volunteers monitored the run, with more monitoring expected this year.

FBP draws inspiration from the success of the Somes-Meynell Sanctuary’s alewife restoration work. Alewife numbers continue to increase in the Long Pond-Somes Pond watershed, with more than 37,000 fish moving upstream this year, an increase from a few hundred fish to current levels in less than ten years. This model for stream restoration shows the type of restoration possible for small coastal streams with good connections to lakes and ponds. Some FBP partners helped with the monitoring and maintenance of this constantly improving fish run. Congratulations to the Somes-Meynell Sanctuary for leading this excellent project.

MDIBL and SMCC complete benthic survey of Frenchman Bay

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Benthic Survey

Survey in progress

During the summer of 2013, a group from Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory and Southern Maine Community College began a benthic survey of numerous sites in Frenchman Bay. The survey was undertaken to compare current benthic species diversity with historical records collected during the first half of the 20th century.

Seven sites in Frenchman Bay were surveyed using a remotely operated vehicle fitted with a color video camera. Numerous videos were taken at each site. In addition, benthic grab samples were collected at each site and benthic species were identified and counted. The seven sites represent locations sampled by the Proctor Survey of 1926-1930. Several sites represent ledges or areas where large numbers of groundfish were historically caught by fisherman from Frenchman Bay. The project was funded by a grant from the Davis Conservation Foundation to Charles Wray. Shannon White, MDIBL Marine Specialist, and Elizabeth Thompson and Brian Tarbox from SMCC all worked collaboratively on the survey project. Data and video will be made available once it is analyzed.