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New buoys return to familiar spots in the Chesapeake Bay

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay office drops a few new buoys in the bay...
Posted at 11:41 AM, Jul 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-19 11:41:59-04

BALTIMORE — The Chesapeake Bay is vital to the Mid-Atlantic region, from fisheries to recreation and everything in between. This makes tracking any changes important, which is why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is replacing some buoys throughout the bay.

The NOAA Chesapeake Bay office has returned to service a few new buoys in spots that have been missing them along with three new buoys to help gather bay data.

We find one of the newly replaced buoys about 10 miles out from the key bridge, where the Patapsco river meets the Chesapeake Bay, a location that has been missing a data collecting buoy since 2017.

It is part of a larger network known as the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System. This network of buoys consists of 8 buoys that collect data from different locations in the bay tracking things like air and water temperature, wave height, and even water salinity for public and research consumption.

“Scientists and members of the general public can use this data. So think about anglers, anglers can get data from these buoys and decide whether the conditions are right to go out and try fishing that day. Scientists can look at a season’s worth of data and assess the conditions and see how they might have been good for fish and crabs. We even put scientific instruments on our buoys that can detect fish that have been tagged by scientists up and down the east coast,” says Kevin Schabow, Deputy Director of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office.

These buoys not only let us know if the weekend boat ride may be a little rough due to some chop but have detected a tagged fish that migrated from the Florida coast to the Chesapeake Bay.

While the buoy sitting in the mouth of the Patapsaco River is replacing an older one, the bay office has also dropped three new buoys that track oxygen levels.

“We’ve also recently put out a new kind of buoy at three locations through the Chesapeake Bay and these buoys measure the oxygen content of the water at various depths from the surface down to the bottom of the bay,” says Schabow.

These new oxygen-tracking buoys add tremendous value as they help us track a vital sign of the bay’s health at a much finer scale of detail than previously done.

The data collected by the newest oxygen-tracking buoys are also used by VIMS to produce the Dead Zone forecasts that we highlighted back in June.

Another benefit of the new replacement buoy at the mouth of Patapsaco, is that it is between two shoals that anglers fish, giving them important data to use in optimizing their catch.