Volume 7, No. 1

Promoting Cooperation to Maintain and Enhance
Environmental Quality in the Gulf of Maine

Spring 2003
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Eyes on the future
The 2002 Gulf of Maine Council Visionary Awards honor individual stewards and nonprofit organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary effort and innovation in caring for the Gulf of Maine watershed.

By Andi Rierden, Editor

Dr. Moira Brown

Dr. Moira “Moe” Brown
Photo: M. Sironi
Thanks in large part to Dr. Moira “Moe” Brown, Northern Atlantic right whales summering in the Bay of Fundy will encounter fewer threats. Beginning July 1, new shipping routes will force vessels to divert just over four nautical miles to the east, a critical shift out of the known right whale feeding grounds off Grand Manan Island. Brown led the U.S./Canadian effort to move the lanes and convince the International Maritime Organization to okay the measure. The changes are expected to reduce right whale ship strikes by about 80 percent.

A senior researcher for the Center for Coastal Studies, the co-chair of the Canadian Right Whale Implementation Team and one of the founders of the Atlantic Right Whale Disentanglement Team, Brown has spent the past 20 years working to protect the mammal - the most endangered large whale on Earth. She collaborates with an international consortium of researchers to develop whale-watching technology and modify fishing equipment to reduce the number of whale injuries and deaths. By photographing the backs of the whales, Brown and other scientists have found that two-thirds are scarred from collisions with ships and struggles with fishing gear.

Born in Montreal, Brown studied with Dr. David Gaskin, the founder of the Whale and Sea Bird Research Station on Grand Manan. In 1985, she founded East Coast Ecosystems, a right whale conservation organization based in Freeport, Nova Scotia. Brown says she applauds the decision to make the waters safer for the whales, adding, “There was some cost to the Nova Scotia fishermen who lost access to some bottom [fishing ground] with the shift, but they recognized the conservation importance to right whales.”

Amy Holt Cline, Charles Saulnier, Steve Chinosi, George Vanikiotis
Essex Agricultural and Technical High School, Danvers, Massachusetts

Amy Holt Cline and Charles Saulnier (standing) with students
Photo: Laura Marron
Lucky are the students enrolled in the Environmental Science Program at Essex Agricultural and Technical High School. Using the Gulf of Maine watershed as a teaching tool, high school teachers Amy Holt Cline, Charles Saulnier, Steve Chinosi and George Vanikiotis combine skills to show how an ecosystem works. In Saulnier’s “Woodlands and Wetlands Ecology” class, students use global positioning systems (GPS) to plot the latitude and longitude of vernal pools, turtle habitats and other natural features. The customized maps they create using geographic information systems (GIS) help them understand the geology and hydrology of wetland systems and to locate endangered species. In Vanikiotis’ shop class, the students build wood canvas canoes and spend a week with educators traveling down the Merrimack River monitoring water quality and macroinvertebrates, and recording the data. Cline uses the tracking and mapping systems in her classroom to study the salt marshes of Plum Island and to demonstrate how currents drive the Gulf of Maine biological system. To instill a deeper sense of place, Chinosi teaches the literature and song of the waterways the students are studying.

This blend of technology, canoe building, marine and inland biology and literature is meant to be a refreshing departure from the textbook approach to teaching, says Saulnier, adding, “With biology everything is taught in isolation. We wanted to change that.” To broaden the students’ scope, the educators supervise field trips to Nova Scotia where students meet with fisheries and GIS experts, tour a lobster pound and join other students in Clare to learn how to grow and release salmon into the wild. “We felt that these kids should know something about their closest foreign neighbor and benefit from knowing what we all share living around the Gulf of Maine,” Saulnier says.

Ted Regan and Aaron Frederick
Portland, Maine

Ted Regan (left) and Aaron Frederick
Photo courtesy of Ted Regan
Combine Ted Regan’s steamroller of a personality with Aaron Frederick’s infectious laugh and you have the makings of one invincible team. Both Regan and Frederick were born and raised in the Portland area, and use their expert outdoor skills to help young people build confidence and self-esteem. As the founders of Rippleffect, a non-profit organization based in Portland, they work with social service agencies and schools to expose teens to the Maine coastal experience.

The concept was born in 1999, when Regan, Frederick and four team members kayaked from Lubec, Maine to Key West, Florida to pay tribute to the lives of several people, and friends of Regan, that had died of AIDS. The journey was part homage to his friends and part AIDS prevention education, says Regan, who organized the expedition. After kayaking 2,700 miles and meeting with 2,300 youngsters in ports along the eastern U.S. seaboard, Rippleffect returned to Maine and revised its mission.

Today Rippleffect runs programs along the Portland waterfront where participants explore sea kayaking fundamentals and the history and environment of Casco Bay. Two years ago, the organization raised the funding necessary to purchase the 26-acre Cow Island in Casco Bay, with assistance from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Rippleffect has since created the Cow Island Ocean Academy, offering youngsters week-long adventures in sea kayaking skills, island geology and culture.

Outreach & Education Committee
City of Dover, New Hampshire

“Growing Greener” workshop organizers (from left to right): Cheryl Bucklin Niles, Anna Boudreau, Tom Fargo, Joyce El Kouarti, Wendy Scribner. Photo: Chris Fargo
Rapid growth in coastal towns along the Gulf has sent residents scrambling for ways to preserve open space. In Dover, New Hampshire, which has seen a 20 percent jump in population in recent years, the City’s Outreach and Education Committee is setting a more conservation-minded pace. Run by citizen volunteers impassioned by a desire to protect Dover’s natural character, the committee, in conjunction with the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and Open Lands Com-mittee, developed a series of workshops to educate local residents and business owners about the fiscal and environmental advantages of preserving undeveloped lands. One such “Growing Greener” workshop showed how land conservation stabilizes a community’s tax base, while another examined the benefits of designing subdivisions with clustered lots surrounded by open space. A “smart growth” workshop highlighted how concentrating development in urban centers as opposed to straggling it around the outskirts is a boon for the entire community. The final workshop looked at land conservation options for owners with large parcels.

Within weeks of the workshops, the City’s planning board voted to change the zoning regulations to manage residential growth and protect natural resources. Not only that, says says Joyce El Kouarti, the Outreach & Education Committee’s chair, land conservationists and the business sector are pursuing joint initiatives to preserve open space and control development. Several landowners have also contacted the committee seeking more information about land conservation. “You never dream that [rapid growth] is coming to your community,” El Kouarti says. “You think that the farm down the road will stay this way forever. Then the farmer dies, his son sells the land and all of the sudden there’s a subdivision. That’s the reality.”

Barbara Baird
Greenland, New Hampshire

Barbara Baird
Photo courtesy of Ann Reid
Barbara Baird grew up around the Great Bay of New Hampshire and is a devoted bay keeper. Thirteen years ago, she answered an ad in the newspaper calling for citizens to monitor the bay’s waters for a new program called Great Bay Coast Watch (GBCW). Based at the University of New Hampshire’s Kingman Farm in Durham, GBCW currently coordinates over 100 volunteers drawn from 19 southern New Hampshire and Maine communities. Volunteers monitor water quality at up to 21 sites on a monthly basis from April through November. Each site is tested at both high and low tide for six water quality parameters: fecal coliform bacteria, dissolved oxygen, temperature, salinity, water transparency and pH. Baird is among the program’s stars.

“Since I grew up on the bay, I had a lot of concerns especially about the declining eel grass,” she said. “Then I started with the Great Bay program and just got wrapped up in it.”

Baird monitors at the entrance of the Winniconic River near Greenland, downstream from a golf course. “We get a lot of run-off from animals upstream and extra nutrients from the golf course,” she says. “But it’s not out of line.” Baird has trained and educated dozens of volunteers over the years with an emphasis on how important their data is to different government agencies and communities.

Not one to crowd the limelight, Baird says, “The Great Bay Coast Watch is an important program and it’s made up of a lot more people than just me. They all deserve credit.”

Atlantic Salmon Federation
St. Andrews, New Brunswick

A snapshot of the ASF’s Fish Friends
Courtesy of Atlantic Salmon Federation
It is no news that wild Atlantic salmon populations have declined dramatically in the last 30 years, despite a near-total ban on commercial fishing of the species. In a bold attempt to reverse the trend, the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF) has sounded a relentless call to conserve and restore the salmon.

In the Gulf of Maine region, ASF was a major partner in removing the Edward’s Dam on the Kennebec River in 1998, and was instrumental in efforts to list Maine’s Atlantic salmon as endangered in 2000 and inner Bay of Fundy salmon as endangered in 2001.

On the Magaguadavic River in New Brunswick, ASF tracks interactions among wild and escaped farmed salmon and is working on a recovery program for the river. ASF scientists have also developed an innovative tagging system that follows smolts into the ocean in hopes of identifying the places where they are dying.

Each year hundreds of schools through out New England and Atlantic Canada participate in Fish Friends, an interactive classroom program where students raise Atlantic salmon or trout to fry stage and release them into streams.

On the international front, ASF works to safeguard the wild fish throughout its range. At the urging of ASF, government officials and other salmon conservationists, Greenland’s fishermen recently agreed to end the last commercial fishery that targeted the North American wild salmon. Bill Taylor, ASF president, said the suspension should bolster salmon restoration efforts throughout the North Atlantic. “I don’t want anyone to think that next year our rivers will be full of fish,” Taylor said of the Greenland agreement, “But we’ll definitely see more fish returning.”

Dr. Martin Willison
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dr. Martin Willison
Photo courtesy of Martin Willison
Nearly ten years ago, Martin Willison, a biologist from Dalhousie University, proposed that an area along the boundary, or Hague Line, separating U.S. and Canadian Atlantic waters be designated an international ocean wilderness area. The proposal helped set in motion a Gulf-wide discussion and concrete initiatives concerning the need to protect areas of the ocean to sustain healthy marine systems. Willison, along with the Ecology Action Centre, later initiated the first international symposium on deep-sea corals.While the Hague Line proposal still stands, last year the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) designated an area of Georges Bank as a “coral conservation closure.” The move is intended to protect the area’s sensitive deep water coral habitat from disturbance. DFO is currently working to designate the largest of the undersea canyons along the Eastern Scotian Slope, known as the Gully, as a marine protected area under the Oceans Act. A strong voice for both measures, Willison advocates a ban on seismic testing by oil and gas companies within 50 kilometers [31 miles] of the Gully and two adjacent canyons inhabited by the endangered Northern bottlenose whale.

As an educator and president of the Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Willison refers to marine conservation areas as “biodiversity insurance schemes” that will act as “seed banks” for the future. He adds, “Biodiversity conservation is not just an academic discipline, but a moral and political foundation for society.”

Ducks Unlimited Canada
Amherst, Nova Scotia

Ducks Unlimited Canada map of more than 50 completed projects in Nova Scotia
Courtesy of John Wile, Ducks Unlimited Canada
Click on the picture to enlarge
Since Ducks Unlimited (DU) first opened an office in Maritime Canada in the early 1970s it has completed 116 projects in Nova Scotia alone, impacting 17,686 hectares [43,701 acres] of wetland and associated upland habitats. Initially, says John Wile, DU biologist, “Much of the opportunity to work on the dyke lands was at the top end of these marshes farthest away from the ocean. Since it was not possible to restore them to salt marshes, we used systems of earthen berms and water control structures to create freshwater wetlands.” The largest of these projects is the 2,400 hectare [6,000 acre] Missaquash Marsh located on the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border.

Over the years, DU has expanded its focus and now conserves wetland habitats by managing entire landscapes instead of individual wetlands. The Belleisle Marsh Project in Annapolis County is one an example where DU has integrated wildlife habitat needs into a working agricultural landscape.

Today DU, working with other partners, offers a wide range of programs to landowners including restoring or enhancing wetlands, livestock fencing to restore riparian buffers, soil conservation and wastewater management.

DU recently built two large “constructed” wetlands that provide wildlife habitat and serve as tertiary wastewater treatment systems for the town of Annapolis Royal and for the Village of River Hebert. Both communities are situated along Bay of Fundy tidal rivers.

“Knowing how wetlands and riparian habitats filter and purify water, we feel that our programs to conserve wetlands are contributing towards a healthier and more sustainable Gulf of Maine, but we also realize that we have much more work to do before we are finished,” Wile says.

David A. Ganong
St. Stephen, New Brunswick

David A. Ganong
Courtesy of Ganong Brothers, Limited
“If you look up from my farm on Todd’s Point - it’s a fascinating place, a really fascinating place - I can look 22 miles straight down the river and see the lights of Eastport at night. I look one mile on my left and there’s the Canadian shore; one mile on my right there’s the American shore. It’s beautiful, oh boys, it’s a beautiful spot.”

These words, spoken in 1987 by Whidden Ganong, of the Ganong chocolate-making family, describe an extraordinary coastal headland that separates the St. Croix Estuary from Oak Bay near St. Stephen. Whidden and his wife, Eleanor, purchased the property in 1951. Before his death in 2000, at the age of 93, Whidden specified in his will that the property be turned into a nature park. His nephew, David A. Ganong, the president of the Ganong Bros. Limited, fulfilled the dream of his uncle by championing the idea that the property be enjoyed in perpetuity by New Brunswickers and visitors. He facilitated the transfer of the family-owned lands into a conservation trust managed by the St. Croix Estuary Project (SCEP).

The Whidden and Eleanor Ganong Nature Park contains 330 acres [142 hectares] of diverse shoreline, rolling fields, a granite outlook with a spectacular view, intertidal land, gardens and an orchard. The community-owned marine park opened officially in June.