After the ship raid that killed Fran – the famous California whale – scientists deployed Whale Safe, to prevent whale ship collisions off the San Francisco Bay Area.
Whale Safe, a technology-based mapping and analysis system to help prevent whale ship collisions, is set to launch in the San Francisco Bay Area, after success in Southern California.
The announcement comes on the heels of news of the death of Fran, California’s most photographed whale, due to a ship raid.
Whale Safe was developed by the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory, in collaboration with the Center for Marine Mammals, to help detect the presence of endangered whales and track ship speeds to provide data to the shipping industry, the public and government to reduce preventable whale deaths.
“Whale Safe is on a mission to help save the amazing mammals that have ruled the oceans for tens of millions of years,” said Marc Benioff, President and Co-CEO of Salesforce.
Whale collisions with ships are still a leading cause of death for endangered whales, but with these new types of monitoring technologies and warning systems, deaths are starting to decrease. This is a triple victory for the planet – we are saving whales, fighting climate change and promoting community health by reducing air pollution. We need more solutions like this that result from alliances between science and business.”
WhaleSafe combines acoustic and visual whale detections with model predictions to provide sailors with the most up-to-date information on the presence of whales. It also uses Automatic Identification System (AIS) data to track ships’ speeds and calculate rates in cooperation with voluntary speed limits set by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Coast Guard to protect whales.
In addition to providing an immediate benefit for monitoring vessel speeds, the data will also be archived and analyzed by the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory and Marine Mammal Center to help inform additional preventive safety recommendations.
The Whale Safe system was first deployed in the Santa Barbara Channel near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and will now be deployed off the coast of San Francisco.
“Whale-ship collisions are a global concern, so when addressing the issue and building the Whale Safe system, we wanted it to be a blueprint to allow for replication and expansion to other areas. We are excited to extend the technology and expertise to The San Francisco Bay Area, where ship collisions are a major concern for endangered whales.
Whales play vital roles in maintaining healthy underwater ecosystems. However, intensive whaling over the past 200 years has pushed many populations to the brink of extinction. Although fishing has significantly decreased over the last century, another threat to whales – cargo ships.
Blue, fin, humpback, and gray whales are vulnerable to ship strikes as they migrate and feed in areas that interfere with shipping lanes and lanes. Scientists estimate that more than 80 endangered whales are killed by ship strikes off the west coast of the United States each year.
“Whale Safe uses best-in-class technology with best-practice conservation strategies to create a solution to reduce the risk to whales,” said Dr. Jeff Bohm, Senior External Relations Officer at the Center for Marine Mammals. The ocean is increasingly busy. Whale Safe San Francisco provides data insights to enable decisions that protect whales while supporting effective marine trade. ”
The number of known whale deaths from ship strikes on the West Coast has increased over the past decade, and we’re only seeing a fraction of the total number dying each year. In fact, scientists estimate the carcass detection rate to be only 5-17 percent, so the actual number of dead whales is much higher than the number observed and recorded.
Whale Safe makes use of an AI-powered audio monitoring system, big data models, and live whale watching recorded by trained observers and citizen scientists.
The three data streams are validated, aggregated, and published in an easily interpretable “whale presence taxon” that ranges from low to very high whale activity. In addition, shipping report cards are generated to display the vessel or company’s cooperation with the voluntary vessel speed reduction zones implemented by NOAA, EPA, and the US Coast Guard. This gives the captains of large ships the data they need to know when to slow down, the most effective measure to dramatically reduce the number of fatal strikes of ships.
“We look forward to the day when ‘whale safety’ is as ubiquitous as ‘fair trade,'” said Dr. Boehm. “We believe consumers are interested in having retailers carry their products with shipping companies that achieve our shared goal of preserving whale water.”
After Whale Safe Santa Barbara and a new expansion in San Francisco, project leaders are said to be looking at expanding the tool’s use in other locations and major ports around the world, such as Sri Lanka, Chile, Greece and the Canary Islands.
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