This ocean buoy has a hydrophone to record marine mammal calls. Photo: Mark Baumgartner, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

New Ocean Buoy Monitors Whales off Md.’s Atlantic Coast

There have been a lot of questions about how the growing offshore wind farm industry will impact ocean life, and a new tool off the Atlantic coast of Maryland will help answer some of them.

An ocean buoy deployed about 23 miles offshore, within US Wind LLC’s MarWin lease, will monitor whales off Maryland, providing daily reports of any of the marine mammals it detects. Specifically, the buoy gives information about whale species and the time of year they are present.

A wide range of whales, dolphins and porpoises live in mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf or pass through on their annual migration up and down the Atlantic coast. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Maryland Energy Administration, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution launched the buoy to gather data for research—research that will likely be used in environmental assessments for offshore wind development.

The buoy is equipped with a hydrophone to record marine mammal calls, and thanks to an algorithm, researchers will be able to determine whether they belong to a humpback, fin, sei, or a critically-endangered North Atlantic Right whale. UMCES scientists will share the data daily, with updated reports for anyone interested in following along on the buoy website.

A U.S. Coast Guard notice to mariners was issued to alert ocean-going vessels and the boating community to its location. 

Meg Walburn Viviano