On the verge of extinction, the population of North Atlantic right whales has plummeted to an estimated 300-400 leaving them critically endangered, but a new app could help protect them.
Other problems aside, their slow movement and the fact that they spend so much time near the surface of the water leaves them especially vulnerable to collisions with ships, particularly when they’re moving in and out of Boston Harbor, an area that’s considered high-use for right whales where they stop every spring to nurse their calves on their way from Florida to New Foundland.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and its partners have developed an IOS Whale Alert app for iPhones and iPads that mariners who travel along the east coast can use to detect whales in real time.
“This important announcement caps more than 15 years of work by IFAW on an array of conservation measures, joined by an unprecedented coalition of industry, government and academia all working to save North Atlantic right whales and give them a chance to survive. All of us at IFAW are proud to have been part of this effort from the very beginning and we are thrilled with the difference we are making for the whales off our shores today and for generations to come,” said Patrick Rammage, IFAW’s Whale Programme Director.
The app, developed by EarthNC and Gaia GPS, works by recording and transmitting their distinctive songs and using GPS and other technologies to alert mariners to their location and speed restrictions for the area. Essentially, this technology is allowing right whales to use their own voices to let people know where they are. The acoustic detection buoys used to record their signals are only currently installed off the coast of New England, but can detect right whales within a five mile radius.
“Whale Alert represents an innovative collaboration to protect this critically endangered species,” said David Wiley, NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator and project lead. “Whale conservation is greater than any one organization and this project shows how many organizations can unite for a good cause.”
The Whale Alert app can be downloaded for free at the iTunes store by anyone.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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