Protecting Whales, Yeah There's an App for That
In recent years the population of North Atlantic right whales has dwindled down to approximately 400. And every spring the last of these whales swim through Cape Cod Bay.
These whales are slow moving and swim at the ocean’s surface, which makes for a great sight on whale watches. It also means they are the sometimes victim of ship strikes, which is currently the leading cause of death for the species.
A busy ship captain, who is learning about whale locations from multiple different sources, may or may not see the information. Approximately twice a year, a right whale collides with a large marine vessel in the unique shipping lanes leading in to Boston Harbor. For a species with such a small population, this poses a large threat.
This is when the expertise and determination of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) entered the scene. The mission of the nonprofit organization, based in Yarmouth, is to save animals in crisis all over the world.
One of the main focuses of IFAW has been to protect international whale populations. According to Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Whale Programme Director, “from the vital role whales fulfill in the marine ecosystems to the strong economic impact of the $2 billion whale watching industry, whales have become the totems of the environmental movement and increasingly widely appreciated worldwide as living beings, with their own intrinsic value.”
But “30 years after the International Whaling Commission declared a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling, our planet’s great whales are far from saved,” added Ramage.
Thus, after what they call the culmination of a 15 year process of research, development and collaboration, IFAW, and their partners, have produced a new digital application for iPads and iPhones that alerts mariners to the presence and location of right whales.
The Whale Alert App features a graphic display by which a mariner can tell immediately from the graphic where the whales are, and they can take action, such as assign additional watches, or slow down their pace.
This is made possible by a buoy array that listens for the call of right whale using an algorithm that an IFAW scientist developed. The buoys detect whale sounds, the sound is transmitted to satellites, and then a notification is sent to an iPad on a marine vessel.
The release of the Whale Alert App comes around the same time that IFAW has released the results of a new nationwide poll on Americans attitudes toward whales, as well as its new Blueprint for U.S. Whale Conservation.
According to the survey conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group, 77 percent of Americans across the political spectrum agree that Congress and the Administration should adopt a broad a whale protection plan.
“Rarely do we see an issue that achieves as intense a level of support, across voters of all parties and ideologies, as we see when it comes to protecting the whales,” said pollster Joel Benenson.
The Blueprint for U.S. Whale Conservation was developed over many months by IFAW and other stakeholders. The new action plan highlights the most urgent threats facing whales including commercial whaling, entanglement and entrapment, ship strikes and shipping noise, navy sonar, oil, gas and industrial development, pollution and its cumulative threats.
The plan also identifies current solutions and recommends next steps the U.S. government should take to secure a better future for whales in waters around the world.
To find out more about IFAW's Whale Programme or to donate to the cause, please visit: http://www.ifaw.org/us/our-work/defending-whales/reducing-accidental-injuries-to-whales