Home EnvironmentalMarine Life Save the Whales with an App

Save the Whales with an App

by Kurt Hoehne

A good East Coast app has made its way to the West Coast, and all our whales will benefit. The Whale Alert app, originally developed to help mariners avoid right whale strikes, has been tweaked for Pacific waters and whale species, and is available for download. This is a great use of technology, engaging all of us in an effort to save our friends the whales. There are more whale strikes than one cares to think about, and for many species, each life is precious to the species’ survival. Read on for details on how it works. It seems this app is only available for iPhone and iPad, which is a shame. I’m following up on this to see if an when it’s available for Android and Windows phones. If anyone has used this app it would be great to get a first-hand report.

Update: We’ve heard from app developer conserve.io and NOAA that an Android version of the Whale Alert app will be available by the end of the year. They are waiting to assess demand from Windows Phone users.

Note at the end of the release are a number of relevant links to follow up on more information about whale conservation.


Press Release:

Mariners and the public on the U.S. West Coast can now use an iPad™ and iPhone™ to help decrease the risk of injury or death to whales from ship strikes.

Whale Alert a free mobile application originally developed in 2012 to help protect endangered right whales on the East Coast, has been updated with new features to provide mariners in the Pacific with the most current information available about whale movements and conservation initiatives.

The app uses GPS, Automatic Identification System, Internet and NOAA nautical charts to  provide mariners with a single source of information about whale locations and conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity. New features include information about California Marine Protected Areas, PORTS® (Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System) tide and weather data and the ability for the public to report whale sightings to databases that NOAA and whale biologists use to map whale habitats and migration patterns.

“Whales are important both ecologically and economically, but they continue to face a variety of threats including ship strikes,” said Michael Carver, deputy superintendent of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “Whale Alert allows citizens to provide data scientists can use to inform management and better protect whale populations.” Slow-moving whales are highly vulnerable to ship strikes, since many of their feeding and migration areas overlap with shipping lanes. In 2007, four blue whales were killed by confirmed or likely ship strike in and around the Santa Barbara Channel. NOAA Fisheries declared this an Unusual Mortality Event. In 2010, five whales (two blue, one humpback and two fin whales) were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast.
“Ship strikes kill and injure large whales. Whale Alert will help mariners and all of us protect  these magnificent creatures,” said Patrick Ramage, Whale Program director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, one of the lead collaborators on Whale Alert. Whale Alert has been developed by a collaboration of government agencies, academic institutions, non-profit conservation groups and private sector industries, led by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Collaborating organizations include Bioacoustics Research Program at Cornell University, Cape Cod National Seashore, Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, Conserve I.O., Excelerate Energy, EOM Offshore, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Massachusetts Port Authority, NOAA Fisheries, National Park Service, Point Blue Conservation Science, U.S. Coast Guard and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as well as shipping industry representatives.

Whale Alert data collected by citizen science and scientists are currently available online at the Whale Alert – West Coast website. “More is usually better when it comes to data,” said Jaime Jahncke, Point Blue Conservation Science lead on the project. “Whale Alert allows us to crowd source data collection, so that as scientists we have more information available to help protect whales from ships.”

Whale Alert can be downloaded free of charge from Apple’s App Store, at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/whale-alert-reducing-ship/id911035973?ls=1&mt=8More information on Whale Alert and the groups responsible for its development can be found at http://www.whalealert.org

On the Web:

Whale Alert – West Coast: http:/westcoast.whalealert.org
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology: www.listenforwhales.org
Conserve.IO http://conserve.io
International Fund for Animal Welfare: http://www.ifaw.org
Point Blue Conservation Science: http://www.pointblue.org
Whale Alert – East Coast: http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/protect/whalealert.html
CINMS Ship strikes: http://channelislands.noaa.gov/management/resource/ship_strikes.html
GFNMS Ship strikes: http://farallones.noaa.gov/eco/vesselstrikes/welcome.html

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