Take an in-depth look at our programs
Our oyster aquaculture program host over 300,000 American oysters around Snow Island. Oysters provide numerous ecosystem goods and services that promote the ecological health of Quahog Bay. Adult oysters have the ability to filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. With their filtering power, QBC’s oysters alone help the organization’s efforts to improve water quality by filtering an estimated 5.4 billion gallons of water annually. Once our oysters reach a marketable size, we sell them at the local and national markets. The revenue generated from our oyster sales is allocated directly back into our programs to restore the ecological functions of the Bay. This program has developed into a business model that can serve as a framework for other nonprofits and aquaculture sites and provide a source of economic sovereignty for the local community.
The Bay is a popular spot for both commercial and recreational boaters. Year-round, it is a common sight to look out over the water and see it dotted with a wide range of boats. Most boats are equipped with holding tanks for wastewater and sewage that need to be periodically emptied. Unfortunately, some boaters discharge their holding tanks straight into the Bay, directly harming water quality and threatening ecological and human health.
We take steps to avoid the environmental impacts caused by overboard discharge by offering a free on-call pump-out service to all boats anchored in the Bay. Waste from the pump-outs is discharged at a local, licensed on-shore facility. We also created an educational program targeting boaters in the Bay to encourage them to use the free pump-out service regularly. This year, our pump-out service removed over 1,500 gallons of raw sewage that otherwise may have been discharged directly into the Bay. Several other pollution sources are being identified, and remediation strategies are being developed for those sites.
We partner with the Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to identify sources of pollution in the Bay and target their removal. We are pleased to announce that, through our collaborative efforts, three out of the five non-compliant septic systems, known as Overboard Discharge (OBD), have been completely remediated from the Bay. We are currently working on communicating with coastal landowners to remove the last two OBD’s in the Bay.
Marine debris is an ever-growing global problem. Our waterways are filled with items that are often human-made and do not belong there. Every day large amounts of discarded items like derelict fishing gear and lobster traps, plastic bottles, cigarettes, rope, gloves, glass, and other lost or abandoned items enter our waters, harm marine life, and threaten the health of ecosystems.
At QBC, we take targeted measures to remove trash from the Bay and educate the community about the effects of marine debris on the environment. Since the organization’s inception in 2014, staff members and volunteers have removed hundreds of cubic yards of marine litter from the Bay. Trash along the coast is spotted and removed by hand and boat, but extracting underwater debris can be more challenging – heavier items often require a mechanical lift to hoist them out of the water. To ensure the safety of our staff and the surrounding marine habitat, we require our employee’s to be SCUBA certified before diving below the surface in search of debris. Fishing gear, abandoned ropes, car batteries, and tires are some of the most frequent and alarming finds along the Bay floor.
To sustain the conditions for the diverse array of seabirds, shellfish, and other marine life, QBC maintains a comprehensive water quality monitoring program. Staff collects and monitors water samples weekly from nine established locations around the Bay, checking the samples for potentially harmful bacteria. Sampling results are tracked and analyzed for patterns based on location, tidal, run-off, or other adverse conditions. Data from the monitoring will be used to help identify ‘hot spot’ problem areas.
The European green crab, a species native to the coast of the North and Baltic Seas is one of the most globally successful invasive species and is among the top 100 worst invasive species in the world. There have been two invasions of the green crab in the Gulf of Maine, first in the late 1800’s and again at the end of the 1900’s. Green crabs are prolific and resilient; they can survive in a wide range of temperatures and salinities and have no distinguished predators. Theses invaders are non-discriminant eaters and out-compete native species for resources and deplete shellfish populations and other keystone species native to the area. They drain resources by voraciously eating mollusk, such as the local soft-shell clam, destroying eelgrass habitats, and causing increased erosion in estuaries and bays.
Our removal efforts make us one of Maine’s largest green crab harvesters. During the warmer months of the year, our staff is fishing 100 traps to remove the crab from our waters. A local ecologist documents the crab numbers to track their population numbers and the effectiveness of our efforts over time. Once removed from the Bay, they are delivered to various private research facilities to help better understand how to eradicate the species and potentially discover other uses for them, such as using them for natural aquaculture feed, natural fertilizers, or delivering them to a local organic composting facility. Since 2014, QBC has removed more than 20,000 pounds of green crabs from the Bay – 5,000 of the pounds were removed during the summer of 2016.
Education and Outreach
In 2016, QBC created scholarship fund of $10,000 to fiscally support undergraduate students studying in the field of marine sciences to conduct student-driven science-based capstone and honors senior research projects. We donated $5,000 to both Bowdoin College and Maine Maritime Academy and supported five students perform diverse marine research projects.
Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for an update on the student’s marine research projects for the most current science news about the Maine coast!