Environment and Outdoors

Environmental news

Threats Take Toll on Maine's Popular 'Steamers'

Jul 5, 2017
Patrick Whittle / Associated Press

SCARBOROUGH, Maine - Maine soft-shell clam diggers are hopeful for a stronger summer this year as the historic industry struggles with a multi-year decline in harvest.
Maine is the soft-shell clam capital of the country, and the clams are harvested from coastal mud. Clammers harvested less than 1.5 million pounds last year, the lowest total in a quarter century.

In the Battle Against Ticks and Lyme Disease, Scientists Look to the Skies

Jul 3, 2017
Troy R. Bennett / Bangor Daily News

As we head into the Maine outdoors this summer, the all-too-familiar warnings about how to avoid ticks reverberate in many of our heads.

Stay on the trail. Steer clear of wooded and brushy areas where ticks congregate.

But while most of us take pains to dodge the eight-legged pests, Chuck Lubelczyk heads straight for them.

Severe Storms, 2 Tornadoes Wreak Havoc in Western Maine

Jul 3, 2017
Bridgton Police Department / via Bangor Daily News

A series of strong thunderstorms — and two confirmed tornadoes — brought down trees, flooded and blocked roads, displaced campers and knocked out power Saturday in the western reaches of Maine, according to the National Weather Service.

While Maine is no stranger to summer storms, having two twisters touch down less than four hours apart was an extraordinary weather event.

Health Officials Wary as Wet Spring Leads to Mosquitoes

Jul 3, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine - A wetter-than-normal spring in the Northeast is behind a bumper crop of mosquitoes as Americans begin grilling and enjoying outdoor activities.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University reports it was the fourth-wettest spring on record from West Virginia to Maine.

That's raising concerns about a corresponding spike in mosquito-borne illnesses. But the presence of mosquitoes doesn't necessarily point to a spike in West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis or the Zika virus.

Public health officials are monitoring the situation.

Peter Duley / NEFSC/NOAA

BOSTON - Scientists say six endangered North Atlantic right whales have died in Canadian waters over the past three weeks.
North Atlantic right whales are one of the most endangered large mammals on Earth, with only about 500 still alive.
Scientists with Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod say they're alarmed by the high number of deaths.

Northern Neighbors / Transboundary Exploration of Deepwater Communities

Federal regulators decided Thursday to recommend barring most fishing around two deep-sea coral canyons off the coast of Maine — although they gave lobstermen an exemption.

The coral canyons of Outer Schoodic Ridge and Mt. Desert Rock lie about 25 miles off Hancock County. Scientists and fishermen recognize their ecological value, and fisheries regulators want to protect them from damage.

At a Portland meeting, the New England Fisheries Management Council voted to bar most fishing in those areas, but made an exception for lobstering.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

At a budget hearing on the Department of the Interior, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine asked Secretary Ryan Zinke about his recent trip to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine. The interior secretary said he was optimistic that he can please all sides.

King thanked Zinke for his recent visit to the monument as part of the review ordered by President Donald Trump of 27 national monuments, including Maine’s, which was created by President Barack Obama last year.

Tick Numbers Are High Across New England This Spring

Jun 20, 2017
s_p_e_x / Flickr/Creative Commons

MARSHFIELD, Vt. — Tick numbers are on the rise across New England this spring, raising the prospect of an increase in Lyme and other diseases associated with the blood suckers.

The region got a respite last year as the drought took a toll on ticks, whose numbers drop as the humidity falls below 85 percent. But the drought is largely gone from the region and ticks are taking advantage.

The city of Portland is proposing to restrict the use of pesticides. On Wednesday the City Council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing exploring two possible avenues. The panel will look at South Portland’s recently implemented Pesticide Ordinance which phases in prohibitions on most synthetic pesticides while allowing most organic substances.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Something fishy happened over the weekend. Thousands of dead pogies — a fish commonly used for bait — washed ashore along five miles of coastline in Brunswick. The sight and smell prompted community-wide concern and a clean up effort that is still underway.

Conservationists: Imperiled Atlantic Salmon Decline Worsens

Jun 19, 2017

BANGOR, Maine — An international conservation group says fewer of North America’s Atlantic salmon are making it back to rivers to spawn, which bodes poorly for the future of the imperiled fish.

Atlantic salmon were once abundant in the rivers of New England and Atlantic Canada. Now they are endangered or have disappeared in parts of both areas. The salmon are born in rivers, swim to the Atlantic and return to their natal river to spawn.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

On the second day of his visit to the Millinocket region, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke offered some encouragement to local supporters of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Days after getting a shot of cold weather for June, northern New England is experiencing temperatures more suited to late July.

In Maine, the state Department of Environmental Protection warned of unhealthy ozone levels Monday for sensitive individuals in the southwest coast and Midcoast, including Acadia National Park. The temperature climbed toward 90 for a second day in a row.

In Augusta, elementary schools were being dismissed early because of the heat.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press File

Scientists and fishing industry reps from a dozen countries have been gathered in Portland this week for the 11th International Conference and Workshop on Lobster Biology and Management.

Friday morning’s keynote address was delivered by Rutgers University ecologist and evolutionary biologist Malin Pinsky. His talk, “Ocean Animals on the Move,” dealt with something observers have been noting for the last several years — things seem to be changing faster in the oceans, than on land.

KENNEBUNK, Maine - Scientists are looking for an explanation for the deaths of dozens of seabirds in New England.

Wildlife officials say northern gannets that are seriously ill or dead have been washing ashore on local beaches from Massachusetts to Maine.

Kristen Lamb from the Center for Wildlife in York, Maine, tells WGME-TV that the birds shouldn't be coming close to shore - much less dying on beaches.

She says scientists believe warming ocean temperatures could be creating toxic algae that build up in fish and crustaceans upon which the birds feed.