US: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS), the Coast Guard, and other government organisations, educational institutions, and conservation groups created an app known as ‘Whale Alert’. With the help of this app mariners along the US coast can get alerts if they enter areas of high risk of collision with critically endangered North Atlantic right whales. The app uses GPS, automatic identification system, Internet and digital nautical chart technologies to alert mariners to NOAA’s right whale conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity. The free app can be downloaded on user’s iPad or iPhone.
Through a press release, David Wiley, NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator and project lead stated, “Whale Alert represents an innovative collaboration to protect this critically endangered species. Whale conservation is greater than any one organisation and this project shows how many organisations can unite for a good cause.”
A key feature of Whale Alert is a display linking near real-time acoustic buoys that listen for right whale calls to an iPad or iPhone on a ship’s bridge showing the whale’s presence to captains transiting the shipping lanes in and around Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “The idea that right whales are directly contributing to conservation through their own calls is pretty exciting,” said Christopher Clark, whose team at the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology helped develop the acoustic detection and warning system.
North Atlantic right whales, which live along North America’s east coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, are one of the world’s rarest large animals and a species on the brink of extinction. Recent estimates put the population of North Atlantic right whales at approximately 350 to 550 animals. Collision with ships is a leading cause of right whale death.