Thursday, November 19, 2015


By David Prescott, Save The Bay South County Coastkeeper

It is not often that you get the chance to really see who lives at the bottom of the Bay. Most times we are swimming along the shore, boating over the surface or fishing off the beach. However, just a few feet below the surface, we discover a whole new world of fish, crabs and shellfish.

Three summers ago, Save The Bay partnered with Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (Division of Fish and Wildlife) and the University of Rhode Island on a study to determine the abundance and distribution of blue crabs within Rhode Island. My focus area was in the lower Pawcatuck River and Little Narragansett Bay in Westerly. The purpose of the project was to analyze the effects of climate change of the geographic expansion of the range of blue crabs. In other words, as our local waters get warmer, are we seeing a northward shift of southern species (such as blue crabs)?

Save The Bay deployed  blue crab traps and checked them frequently throughout the season. While blue crabs were the species of interest to RIDEM and URI, I was equally interested in what other species of crabs and fish made Little Narragansett Bay their home.

We definitely counted large numbers of blue crabs over the past several summers. They seem to prefer the warmer waters of the tidal river where we found the greatest numbers.  However, in addition to blue crabs, we have counted various numbers of other species of crustaceans (lobsters, green crabs, rock crabs, and spider crabs) as well as fish (oyster toadfish, summer flounder, tautog, cunner, scup, rock gunnel, northern pipefish and black sea bass). Many of these animals loved the protection of the cage and used it as a refuge to hide from other predators.

While the study by RIDEM and URI concluded in 2014, Save The Bay has continued to monitor these traps for changes in species composition and abundance. This past summer was the summer of the scup. Large numbers of good sized scup (eight to ten inches) found their way into the traps on a regular basis. In addition, we also caught our first predominantly freshwater species – catfish. It is always interesting to discover what we find as we pull up these traps to the surface of the Bay.

To follow our adventures as we check our traps next season, you can follow me on Twitter @coastkeeperRI or follow the hashtag #WhatsInTheTrap

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Volunteering with Save The Bay: A Day in the Life

By Annalisa Carmosino, Save The Bay Volunteer and Intern

When you volunteer with an organization dedicated to preserving something as dynamic as Narragansett Bay, you know every day will be different. Interns and volunteers at Save The Bay work behind the scenes and with the public, contributing to Save The Bay’s educational goals, orchestrating cleanups, and much more.

One of my favorite activities as an intern is assisting at our Exploration Center in Newport. The Exploration Center is home to a variety of creatures native to Narragansett Bay, and a few tropical friends who were misdirected by the Gulf Stream. I have loved learning about the animals in our bay, especially since there are so many I haven’t seen before now. The Exploration Center attracts families, school groups, and anyone walking along the beach who’d like to pet a starfish or see an octopus up close. Teaching our guests about the inhabitants of the bay and watching them interact with those creatures is extremely satisfying. When people have a face (or a fin) in mind, I think it makes them realize how important it is to conserve the Bay.

I’ve also learned that planning a Save The Bay cleanup requires more than gathering a few trash bags. Corporate groups, fraternities, and other organizations reach out to Save The Bay eager to do a group cleanup. Volunteers and interns find an appropriate cleanup site, organize trash removal with the city, and work with the group to figure out the best date for the cleanup. Any and all behind the scenes work is clearly worth it the day of the cleanup. These groups reach out to Save The Bay because they’re excited about our mission and want to help, so we always have enthusiastic volunteers. The beach captain-the volunteer or intern leading the cleanup-is responsible for explaining where and what to clean, and safety precautions. Every cleanup is different, so it’s up to the beach captain to be ready for anything. Volunteers find all kinds of litter on our beaches: clothing, toys, tires, tons of cigarette butts, lots of plastic grocery bags, you name it, we’ve found it.  The volunteers’ energy and the crazy things we find keep things interesting!

Save The Bay also hosts and participates in a variety of events, and throughout my internship, I’ve been assisting our events manager with preparations for Artists for The Bay, Save The Bay’s annual art show and sale in December.  Researching and contacting artists, donors for our raffle, and promoters has been a lot of fun; Rhode Island is a hub of artists and small businesses, so we’ll have plenty of great artwork and prizes. Save The Bay also makes an appearance at events all over the state. Recently we’ve participated in Johnson and Wales University career fair, the Artisan Show at Central Nurseries, and Bowen’s Seafood Festival. Interns and volunteers man the Save The Bay table, providing information about volunteering, upcoming events, and becoming a member. These events are an amazing opportunity to meet people who are unfamiliar with our mission, make connections, and recruit future volunteers or supporters of Save The Bay.

Save The Bay offers so many opportunities to get involved. There’s a role for everyone here. Whether you’re excited to work with the public or prefer to be behind the scenes,  as a volunteer, you’ll help Save The Bay in too many ways to count. To find out more about what you can do for Save the Bay, contact our volunteer manager July Lewis ( to dive in.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Battle That Started It All

By Topher Hamblett, Director of Advocacy & Kendra Beaver, Staff Attorney

As Save The Bay approaches our golden anniversary in 2020, we can’t help but celebrate some of the heroes that made us who we are today. One of those heroes is Louise Durfee, the fifth President of Save The Bay. 

Louise has a remarkable record of achievement that has led to dramatic improvements in Narragansett Bay. She has served as director of the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM), Tiverton Town Council president and council member, and chairperson of the Governor’s Sewage Task Force that examined the failure of the Fields Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in the 1970s. She negotiated the creation of the Narragansett Bay Commission and was one of the first female partners of a major law firm in Rhode Island. 

Louise Durfee, fifth president of Save The Bay.
Louise was a Tiverton Town Council member in 1970, when a small but powerful grassroots organization called Save Our Community formed in response to a proposal by Northeast Petroleum to build and operate an oil refinery in Tiverton, on the site of an oil tank farm. That organization became Save The Bay, and she was a key member. Sitting in her home, where the opposition to the refinery first met, Louise shared her reflections on Save The Bay’s first battle, the battle that began it all. 

“I would say that 90-95% of the people in town were in favor of the refinery when it was introduced. The proposers came in and invited the community and all the boards and commissions to free dinner and drinks. People flocked to the Stonebridge Inn. They showed this little video of the the refinery, and how this would lower our taxes. 

“It was here, in this dining room, where only about seven or eight people were saying, ‘What do we do with this?’ We formed a corporation; it was called Save Our Community. We got Jim Edwards, a litigator who threw himself into this, and he did nothing else for three or four months. There were zoning hearings. Jim treated it as a court case. There was no regulatory body in place. No CRMC, no DEM, no Clean Water Act. The social media, the web sites, these did not exist at that time. What we had was newsprint. The coverage by the newspapers was extraordinary.

“Every week, the local paper would have these huge headlines and it would champion the opposers [of the oil refinery]. Gradually, the townspeople began to say, ‘This may not be so good.’ And at the same time, the tank farm at the [proposed refinery] site had spills week after week, and after every single spill we’d call out the press and say, ‘This is what we can expect here!’ 

“We lined the first row of these public hearings with quahoggers, even though Mt. Hope Bay [which abuts northern Tiverton] was closed off to them. It was so amusing. The two lawyers representing Northeast Petroleum would call Jim Edwards and say, ‘Would you mind walking in with us? We’re so fearful of those quahoggers, we think we’re going to get beat up!’ 

“We established an office in the north end of town, with John Scanlon as our executive director. He was there a good part of the day. People came in and out, and there would be gossip and this and that. He was funny, I mean hilarious. He was a great guy. He became a focal point. 

“A guy named John Canulla was going all over the country, looking at refineries, getting reports and feeding them to the press. He was the first president of Save Our Community/Save The Bay.
“When it came to a vote before the Tiverton Town Council, their [Northeast Petroleum] proposal went down 4-3.”

Louise Durfee embodies the spirit of Save The Bay—determined, passionate, persistent, untiring. That was the spirit of the group that founded us back in 1970, and it’s been our spirit for all our 46 years. “It has been an amazing organization. It really has,” Louise said. “The staying power and the role it has taken just extraordinary. It takes a long period of changing culture, and a new generation comes along. Same kind of movement, different technology today, but same work.” 
Louise also reminds us of the urgency of Save The Bay’s mission. “I think the Bay and its resources will always be a challenge. You have stormwater issues. I think we’re just in our infancy on stormwater. I see that as a major issue. It’s complex. We’re literally just beginning to deal with it. Mount Hope Bay, which I look at every day, still needs a tremendous amount of work. I think you’ve been on the right track on all the issues over the years. The education is important. The advocacy is important. There is still a great deal to be done.

“Save The Bay needs to continue its advocacy to make sure DEM and CRMC have the funds to do their jobs. If the regulators themselves are loathe to speak up for greater resources for fear of consequences, Save The Bay and others must carry the load. A weak DEM and CRMC do not serve the public. Enforcement of environmental laws, fairly applied, is a great educator for all of us and ensures that the State’s magnificent resources are preserved for all.”

Thanks to the strong foundation built by Louise and our founders, we look forward to the next 50 years of advocacy for Narragansett Bay.