iPad app helps ship captains avoid whale collisions, reduce noise pollution

Whale Alert/Screen capture

For the North-Atlantic as of now, but it should be used everywhere

The North-Atlantic area off the coast of New England is home to many species of whales (especially Right Whales), but because of ship traffic to ports like Boston's, there is a lot of noise pollution and even the risk of potentially fatal collisions. To try to mitigate the impacts of sea shipping, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created an iPhone and iPad app called Whale Alert - Ship Strike Reduction for Right Whales for ship captains.

Whale Alert/Screen capture

It uses data from from buoys to track the presence of whales and informs captains when they are in protected areas and what they need to do (change course, slow down).

Whale Alert benefits right whale conservation and the maritime community by depicting active right whale management areas, required reporting areas, recommended routes, areas-to-be-avoided and near real-time warnings of the presence of North Atlantic right whales in shipping lanes in and around the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary derived from automatic passive acoustic buoys. This information allows vessel operators to avoid collision with right whales by slowing down and heightening their visual awareness. Whale Alert can help reduce the likelihood of ships colliding with these endangered whales, which can injure or kill them.

The Whale Alert App is designed to complement existing protective measures by providing mariners and others with all relevant right whale conservation and management measures in a single location displayed on NOAA nautical charts. (source)

Use of the whale-avoiding route is so far only voluntary for ships, but according to the NOAA scientists who created it, it could "reduce the co-occurrence of whales and ships by 81% and increased the transit time of ships by between nine and 22 minutes." Considering that most ships spend days if not weeks at sea, 20 minutes to avoid hitting whales isn't such a big sacrifice.

What I'd like to see is this kind of data standardized so that one app could provide mariners with info on the best routes around the world, with real-time data and suggestions on what to do to mitigate their impact.

Whale Alert/Screen capture

Via NOAA

See also: Bottlenose dolphins may call each other by name

Tags: Oceans | Whales