iPad app helps mariners save endangered right whales


iPad app helps mariners save endangered right whales

Lindsey Hoshaw, Contributor

I cover green technology

Green Tech

4/06/2012 @ 11:51AM |120 views

Once considered the “right” whale to kill, these marine mammals are gaining protection from an unlikely source: a free iPad app.

Whale Alert tells mariners if they’ve entered a seasonal or temporary management area to prevent ships from striking the animals. The app, which also works on the iPhone, shows a coastal map of Massachusetts and a blinking yellow circle where a whale has been sighted.

Right whales, which live along North America’s east coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, are the most endangered whale species with only about 400 left in the North Atlantic and 60 left in the North Pacific, according to the Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Once popular among whalers for their high blubber content, they’ve been protected since 1931 but boat operators often don’t see the whales, which swim just below the surface.

A female right whale and her calf. Photo courtesy of NOAA

“This technology allows right whales to contribute to their own conservation,” said Patrick Ramage, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Global Whale Program. “Prior to the iPad app, captains were essentially operating blind.”

Before Whale Alert, mariners could get faxes or emails from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association or receive broadcasts from the United States Coast Guard but the information was sporadic and unorganized.

The app works by relaying information from acoustic buoys in Boston Harbor. The buoys pick up whale noises then wirelessly send the information to NOAA headquarters in Maryland where the data is compared to overhead sightings from monitoring planes.

A lighthouse in Truro, Massachusetts receives the information from NOAA, sends it to Boston Harbor, and then boat operators receive the data through Whale Alert in nearly real time.

“Right whales face a daily threat but …”



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