News / Science & Technology

New App Being Tested to Spot California Whales so Ships Can Avoid Them

This undated photo released in London Wednesday Nov. 9, 2010, by The Zoological Society of London, shows the blistered skin of a blue whale photographed in the Gulf of California.
This undated photo released in London Wednesday Nov. 9, 2010, by The Zoological Society of London, shows the blistered skin of a blue whale photographed in the Gulf of California.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Marine biologists have begun testing a smartphone application that would allow boaters and conservationists to identify whales outside San Francisco Bay so ships can avoid striking the endangered mammals.
 
Whale Spotter, the app developed by Conserve.IO, will be used to map the feeding grounds of the enormous creatures, which large ships too frequently strike as they migrate along the California coast.
 
Among the areas of greatest concern for marine biologists and environmentalists are five California marine sanctuaries, two that shippers must pass through when they navigate into San Francisco Bay.
 
"This app is an opportunity for citizen scientists - people who love these waters - to contribute to protecting whales in the sanctuaries, giving us extra eyes on the water," Jackie Dragon, a Greenpeace campaigner, told Reuters.
 
Trained observers with an interest in whales will use the application to report their whale sightings, along with the animals' behaviors, to a global database. Biologists will use information from the app to map the whales' locations.
 
In June, new information about migratory patterns led to the rerouting of three shipping lanes into the San Francisco Bay, but scientists say they need more information on the location of whales along the California coast.
 
Large vessels struck whales at least 100 times in California between 1988 and 2012, said Monica DeAngelis, a National Marine Fisheries Service marine mammal biologist.
 
She estimates the true number could be 10 times higher given that whale injuries tend to go unreported. Once struck, the creatures often sink to the ocean's bottom.
 
Endangered right and blue whales
 
Commercial shippers use another, similar app called Whale Alert along the U.S. Atlantic Coast to try to steer clear of critically endangered right whales, only 400 of which remain in the East Coast, said Brad Winney, co-founder of mobile technology company Conserve.IO, developer of both apps.
 
Winney expects to ultimately merge the two applications that would become available to shippers on global seas.
 
"The vision of Whale Alert and Spotter is to support the worldwide collection of data to help shippers avoid whale habitats and avoid striking and killing whales," he said.
 
In Boston Harbor, the app includes a sonic-sensing system that listens for the sound of the call of the right whale, although that capability is not currently envisioned beyond Boston because of the expense, Winney said.
 
California biologists are most concerned about protecting endangered blue whales, the largest animals on the planet. About 2,000 blue whales remain along the West Coast, and biologists believe ships are striking them as well, DeAngelis said.
 
The 3,500 or so large vessels that travel through the Golden Gate must pass through one or two marine sanctuaries, said John Berge, vice president of Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents shipping companies.
 
Biologists are hopeful that boaters who use the app along the California coast will be better able to prevent collisions with the animals.
 
"I don't think it's the ultimate solution, but I think it's one tool to provide a better picture of where the whales are and hopefully to develop management strategies to avoid striking," Berge said.
 
A whale spotted in San Francisco Bay last week nearly caused the postponement of a race for the prized America's Cup.
 
Five dead blue whales, one a pregnant female, washed ashore in Southern California in 2007, raising awareness about the problem, Greenpeace's Dragon said.
 
"We're hopeful the public will see this as a great opportunity to help steward these waters and help us protect whales," she said. "Instead of having one or two eyes on the Bay, this is a chance to bring many eyes to the water."

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid