Project Report:
Using Conservation Action Planning to Create Stable Local Economies
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


MDIBL has played a leadership role in engaging stakeholders around Frenchman Bay in conservation action planning, leading to the formation of a new group called the Frenchman Bay Partners and a plan for conserving habitats and species important to local marine livelihoods. We have engaged local harvesters and have educated them about the importance of conserving and restoring essential habitat. Eight municipalities have joined our group and are helping us make important links between working waterfront issues and the future of marine livelihoods. We are now poised to work collaboratively with these groups and others to address threats to habitats and species. In doing so, we will tip the balance toward a more ecologically and economically sustainable bay. We plan to expand our stakeholder base to include local businesses. We believe that this level of community engagement will open new and creative avenues of financial support for the on-going work of the Frenchman Bay Partners.

Tying eelgrass to grids
Restoring eelgrass in Frenchman Bay: tying eelgrass to grids


Report on 2013

We had three goals for this project. We made progress on all three goals, despite some environmental setbacks.

Goal #1: Expand Eelgrass Restoration

Due to an unforeseen eelgrass dieback (see map), we decided to spend summer 2013 investigating causes of eelgrass loss, and testing methods to circumvent future eelgrass losses in Frenchman Bay.

Eelgrass loss in Maine:

In Maine, eelgrass (Zostera marina) emerges each spring from rhizomes in the sub-tidal sediment. It propagates by vegetative and sexual means throughout the summer, and usually dies back to the rhizome in fall or early winter. In 2012, eelgrass had died back by the last week in August in upper Frenchman Bay, at least a month earlier than expected. Then, it did not emerge from rhizomes in spring 2013. There was also no apparent germination of seeds anywhere in upper Frenchman Bay. We made these determinations using underwater videography and direct observation from kayaks at low tide. In order to understand the extent of the eelgrass loss, we developed a new database-driven web application that invites the public to report locations where eelgrass is and is not growing ( We used a variety of approaches to distribute information about the site, including e-mails to groups, media coverage, and personal contacts. Numerous individuals, kayak tour participants, and students at summer camps used the site to report their observations. In total, fifty-nine observations from locations in Maine and one location in Nova Scotia have been reported. Our findings show that while other bays such as Maquoit Bay in southern Maine experienced dramatic declines in eelgrass coverage, the decline was not uniform statewide. Our experience demonstrates there is potential for crowd-sourced technological solutions in gathering data on emerging environmental problems. Anecdotal information can play a role in revealing broad patterns and pointing scientists toward emerging problems and new studies. We are building on our experience by creating a new online data portal for community observations which will function as a collaborative naturalist's notebook.

Eelgrass restoration in Frenchman Bay:

We had planned to implement six eelgrass restoration projects throughout the summer of 2013. Before proceeding with our ambitious restoration schedule, we decided to do a test planting in our restoration site at Hadley Point to determine if the eelgrass loss was indicating a problem with sediment or water quality in upper Frenchman Bay. With no eelgrass anywhere in upper Frenchman Bay, we decided to harvest eelgrass at Bar Island in Bar Harbor. We harvested 400 plants. Volunteers assisted us in tying 20 eelgrass plants onto each of 20 wood and twine biodegradable grids. We placed 10 grids with plants into the subtidal area off of Hadley Point and 10 grids into the same area where the eelgrass had been harvested at Bar Island. The eelgrass on the grids at Hadley Point had completely disappeared within a few weeks. The eelgrass on the grids at Bar Island remained intact and underwent growth and spreading throughout the summer season.

Based on this result, we decided to cancel our plans for eelgrass restoration and focus on trying to understand eelgrass loss. We received an extension on our National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, and plan to resume restoration in 2014.

Are invasive green crabs (Carcinus maenas) responsible for eelgrass loss?

After consulting with colleagues from around the state of Maine, we began to suspect that invasive green crabs might be contributing to eelgrass loss in upper Frenchman Bay. We conducted green crab census work in various locations, participated in a state-wide green crab survey, and conducted a 24 hour green crab trapping study in eelgrass beds around the Frenchman Bay area. Our results raised more questions than they answered. We found abundant green crabs in areas with healthy eelgrass, and areas that had lost eelgrass. We decided to do a green crab exclusion study. We set up two 8 ft by 8 ft fenced areas and transplanted 8 grids with eelgrass plants into each area. Two grids were set outside the fenced areas. Crabs were regularly trapped from one of the exclosures and from the area outside the fences. There was no difference in the number of crabs trapped inside and outside the fenced area. After 6 weeks, 3 of the 8 grids from each exclosure and the 2 grids outside of the fenced areas were removed and plants were assessed for damage. There were many plants missing from the grids outside of the exclosures, and those that remained had characteristic damage from green crabs. Most plants remained on the grids inside the exclosures and few had characteristic damage from green crabs. Evidence is mounting that green crabs are involved, at least in part, in eelgrass loss in Frenchman Bay.

The success of future eelgrass restoration may depend on some level of green crab eradication coupled with methods that deter crabs from damaging plants.

Goal #2: Expand the stakeholder base of the Frenchman Bay Partners (FBP) and apply market-based solutions to conservation of habitats and species in Frenchman Bay

We invited Tundi Agardy from Forest Trends to visit and educate us on market-based approaches to conservation. On October 2nd, twenty members of FBP and invited guests participated in a workshop, held on the College of the Atlantic campus. Agardy discussed four reasons to pursue market-based approaches to conservation.
1- Enable generation of new revenue streams for monitoring, conducting research on habitat loss, and developing communication tools
2- Engage stakeholder sectors that wouldn’t be engaged otherwise, including those who benefit from the natural systems’ ecosystem services.
3- Accomplish marine conservation at a local scale, which is best supported by local scale investment (of time or money).
4- Help people recognize the intrinsic value of the ecosystem services that are benefitting all sectors of society.

Agardy explained that using a market-based approach to conservation includes a whole range of tools. She described some market based conservation tools and provided some examples of how these tools have been applied:

1- Setting up a trust fund.
2- Certification schemes
3- Eco-labeling or Seals of approval
4- Biodiversity offsets
5- Species banking
6- Payments for ecosystem services
7- Reciprocal Arrangements

After the workshop, FBP generated a document about market based approaches to conservation and how they might be utilized to advance the mission of the FBP. A “Primer on Market Based Approaches to Conservation” can be found on the FBP website. A new FBP committee was formed to follow up on the workshop. The Market Based Approaches (MBA) committee has met once and generated lists of ecosystem services for Frenchman Bay, lists of stakeholders who benefit from those services and matrices of ecosystem services and stakeholders for each of our conservation targets. Next steps include determining the value of ecosystem services in Frenchman Bay, in order to convince those stakeholders who benefit most that investment in the bay would be money well spent.

Our 2nd annual meeting is scheduled for February 1st when selected business leaders from around the Frenchman Bay area will be invited to learn more about FBP and participate in break-out sessions to discuss their involvement with FBP in exploring market based approaches to conservation.

Goal #3: Increase Capacity of Frenchman Bay Partners

Frenchman Bay Partners Progress:

The Frenchman Bay Partners is a group of stakeholders working together to ensure that the Frenchman Bay area is ecologically, economically and socially healthy and resilient in the face of future challenges. Our approach is to provide means by which local stakeholders in the bay can come together to address issues in a way that does not require top down intervention or legislative action.

Over the past year, the Frenchman Bay Partners made considerable progress. The Frenchman Bay Plan was updated to include goals for conservation. The 2013 Frenchman Bay Plan can be found at Progress toward achieving some of those goals is being made:

In spring 2013, Frenchman Bay Partners received a grant to help the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Committee (RSC) to build capacity toward the goal of opening 610 acres of closed clam flats in Frenchman Bay. Frenchman Bay Partners have identified the goal of opening 610 acres of closed clam flats in Frenchman Bay over the next five years. Multiple local, municipal, and state agency partners are serving as advisors to the RSC during this process, helping to lay the ground work for watershed surveys and outreach and education activities necessary to re-claim high value clam flats.

In summer 2013, we began to collect data on the status of benthic habitats in Frenchman Bay. By analyzing species diversity in sediment cores, from benthic grabs, and in underwater video records, we are gaining a better understanding of the abundance and type of marine species occupying the bottom of Frenchman Bay. We are comparing our findings with historical species lists.

In summer and fall 2013, we continued to collect water quality data throughout upper Frenchman Bay. Despite habitat changes, water quality and clarity remain good, necessary pre-requisites for successful eelgrass restoration in 2014.

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.

Map depicting eelgrass loss in Frenchman Bay. It is estimated that 75-183 acres remain of the 1128 acres present in 2008. There were 3,174 acres in 1996.


Investigate Causes of Economic Imbalances: MDIBL has been working with local partners to identify threats to economically important habitats and species on Frenchman Bay. In addressing these threats we will be addressing both ecologic as well as economic imbalances. The most recent economic data for the Frenchman Bay area puts the value of marine resources at $7,339,569. This value is less than what it could be. Economic imbalances exist where eelgrass habitat has been lost, mudflats are closed due to pollution, benthic habitats have been disrupted, and fish runs have been impeded.
Explore and Develop Market-Based Solutions: Frenchman Bay Partners have created a focused conservation action plan. We have partners with the skills and local authority to make positive changes. It will take considerable financial resources however. The key to success will be including business partners who can help us find creative avenues for funding our bay restoration and conservation work.


Our eelgrass restoration project is based in upper Frenchman Bay in the Gulf of Maine. The project’s focus on voluntary marine conservation agreements and cooperation with the fishing community and other stakeholders makes it a potential national model for other marine conservation projects. From this collaborative project, the Frenchman Bay Partners have emerged as a group of individuals and organizations intent on developing a conservation action plan for the entire Frenchman Bay watershed with a focus on four priority habitats and species, including eelgrass. The proposed project will involve expanding our work with eelgrass restoration to include building capacity among our partners to restore and conserve other habitats and species such as mudflats, benthic habitats, and migratory fishes. In addition, we will work with partners to expand our stakeholder base to include the business community, in particular, real estate agencies, development corporations, and related businesses.

Information Dissemination

On-line Dissemination: Our eelgrass restoration and research efforts are available on the MDI Biological Laboratory website at

Working together with diverse stakeholders, we have created a new website to disseminate information about efforts to plan for a sustainable future for Frenchman Bay. The stakeholders have formed a coalition called Frenchman Bay Partners with a website at

We have created a Facebook page ( and an e-newsletter as well.

New Partners:

Both the Frenchman Bay Conservancy and the Friends of Taunton Bay agreed to sign on as partners in Fall 2013. These two groups have a lot of status and influence around Frenchman Bay, and their participation will help to forward the work of the group.

Municipal Meetings:

This past fall, we met with the Town of Franklin, one of two towns around Frenchman Bay that have not yet signed on as partners. The selectmen have decided that this should be voted on by residents at the annual meeting in spring 2014. We plan to reach out to residents of Franklin and encourage them to vote in favor of participation in the Frenchman Bay Partners group.

Maine Green Crab Summit: December 16, 2013

We presented a poster depicting eelgrass loss in Frenchman Bay and studies that reveal a potential link between green crab density and eelgrass loss.

Project Link

Amount Approved
$30,000.00 on 6/10/2013 (Check sent: 7/1/2013)

  Related Organizations
MDI Biological Laboratory  

Eelgrass survival inside and outside exclosure fences
Eelgrass survival inside and outside exclosure fences

Crab density in intertidal areas of Frenchman Bay
Green crab density in intertidal areas of Frenchman Bay--there are more crabs where eelgrass remains and fewer where eelgrass has been lost.

Green crabs trapped in upper Frenchman Bay during state survey
Green crabs trapped in upper Frenchman Bay during state survey

Exclosure Detail
Eelgrass planted in these fenced areas survived better than eelgrass planted outside of fenced areas

Eelgrass at Bar Island
Eelgrass continues to thrive in some areas of Frenchman Bay. We are trying to understand the differences between areas where eelgrass has died back and areas where it has not.

Eelgrass survival inside and outside exclosure fences
Tying eelgrass to grids
Crab density in intertidal areas of Frenchman Bay
Green crabs trapped in upper Frenchman Bay during state survey
Exclosure Detail
Eelgrass at Bar Island
April 2014 FBP Newsletter Pg.1

159 Old Bar Harbor Road
Bar Harbor , ME 04609

After driving onto Mt. Desert Island, bear left to stay on Route 3. Drive about 4 miles, then turn left onto Old Bar Harbor Road at sign for the Lab. Turn left again onto Biol Lab Road and continue straight to parking area.

(207) 288-9880 ext 125


Dr. Jane Disney
Eelgrass Project Co-Manager
Judy Sproule
Deputy Director of Development, Mt. Desert Island Biological Laboratory

Posted 3/26/2013 5:48 PM
Updated   6/11/2014 11:22 AM

  • Nonprofit

April 2014 FBP Newsletter Pg.1
April 2014 FBP Newsletter Pg.1, Featuring Session on Market-Based Approaches

© 2024 Alex C. Walker Foundation