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Saving Whales From Ship Collisions With Warnings and Letter Grades

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Pacific Ocean near San Francisco — Flan washed up on the shore about 25 miles south of the Golden Gate Bridge in August.of loved and photographed a lot A female humpback whale had a broken neck maybe result colliding with a ship.

This latest maritime traffic accident brings the number of whales killed by ships in San Francisco waters this year to four.the true number of deaths much more likely Whale carcasses often sink to the seabed.

Scientists and conservationists are trying to get that number to zero. on wednesday, whale safeAI-based detection system has started operation around San Francisco Bay. Its goal is to alert large vessels in the area’s waters when whales are nearby.

On Monday afternoon, about 25 miles from the Golden Gate to the ocean, a yellow buoy floated not far from the Farallon Islands great white shark hunting grounds. On a nearby boat called the Nova, Douglas Macquarie Benioff Ocean Initiative At the University of California, Santa Barbara, we put on a wetsuit and snorkel, jumped into the salt water, and gave the buoy some TLC before the big day. A buoy tethered to an underwater microphone is an integral part of Whale Safe.

Researcher’s estimate More than 80 endangered blue, humpback and fin whales are killed each year by ships along the West Coast. With increasing global sea traffic, the problems caused by thousands of huge ships crisscrossing waters filled with sea giants are expected to only get worse.California Cathy George, field operations manager at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, said climate change is putting whales at risk more often, especially near San Francisco, as their prey moves closer to shore.

That’s why Dr. Macquarie and a network of collaborators developed Whale Safe with funding from Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynn. Operating in the Santa Barbara Channel since 2020, Whale Safe provides near real-time data on whale presence and sends alerts to sailors, shipping lines and anyone else who registers. If the captain receives a warning that there are many whales in the area, they are more likely to change course or slow the approach to port. Research suggests Fatal collisions are less likely to occur.

“The near real-time aspect of Whale Safe’s alerts and being able to know where the whales are 24 hours a day is very unique and gives us more information to share with vessels coming in and out of the bay. Maria Brown, NOAA’s Cordell Banks and Greater Farallon National Marine Sanctuary Manager, said:

In 2021, WhaleSafe’s first year-round operation in the Santa Barbara Channel, no whale-ship interactions were recorded in the region, which Dr Macquarie called an encouraging sign.

Whale Safe also uses publicly available position data transmitted from vessels to determine whether to slow down to 10 knots while navigating whale feeding grounds. 2014. Whale Safe processes vessel speed information and assigns letter grades to shipping lines.

Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping lines, received a ‘B’ for slowing 79% of the time in the Santa Barbara Channel. However, the ships operated by Matson, a major player in Pacific shipping, slowed only 16% of the time and received an ‘F’.

A Matson spokesperson said the company has long instructed vessels to participate in NOAA’s voluntary slowdown program “to the greatest extent possible given our operational requirements”. . Most of our ships average less than 12 knots. “

At the buoy on Monday afternoon, Dr. McCauley used a kitchen scrubber and plastic putty knife to scrape off the algae and ensured that various instruments were intact. The device’s underwater microphone was positioned about 280 feet below his flippers to hear the whale’s voice from the ocean floor and was connected by a heavy-duty, rubber-coated cable to the floating counterpart’s communications array.This high-tech buoy was developed by Mark Baumgartner A researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, his team uses the same technique Listen to the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale along the east coast.

Whale Safe uses three data streams. The buoys use algorithms to listen to and identify blue, fin and humpback whale calls and transmit the results to satellites. Mathematical models based on current and historical oceanographic and biological data predict where blue whales are most likely to be. Citizen scientists and trained observers report whale sightings through the app. whale alert.

Whale Safe’s platform integrates these data sources and alerts ships to a possible whale encounter that day.

In 2019, before the system’s Santa Barbara launch, 46% of vessels were slowing in Southern California’s voluntary slowdown zones, now that percentage will rise to 60% in 2022 doing. Protect blue whales and blue skies Not only does it pay shipping companies to slow down because of whales, it’s also used in more than a decade of lobbying from NOAA officials like Brown to shipping companies.

In the San Francisco area, NOAA speed limit compliance has hovered around 62% for the past three years, and Whale Safe is expected to help increase speed limits.

“We expect the industry to rise to the occasion voluntarily,” Brown said. “If they can’t do that, our council has asked that we consider making these speed limits mandatory, as we have on the East Coast, which boasts an 80% compliance rate.”

According to Dr Macquarie, the response from shipping lines has been encouraging, with some of the world’s largest fleets asking about good or bad grades received and how to most efficiently deliver Whale Safe alerts to their fleets. I am looking for more information.

CMA CGM, the world’s third largest container shipping company, has created an automated pipeline to deliver Whale Safe alerts directly to captains near the Santa Barbara Channel.

The Whale Safe team is also working with Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s largest shipbuilder, to bring the system’s data directly into the navigation systems of new ships, said Benioff Ocean Initiative scientist and Whale Safe project leader. said Callie Steffen,

Now that the system has been switched on at the two locations, Dr Macquarie says the immediate goal is to continue contacting companies and reduce whale fatalities from ship collisions where Whale Safe operates. said to be reduced to zero. Steffen and others aim to expand WhaleSafe’s vessel speed monitoring to all designated areas of whale concern on both U.S. and Canadian shores.

On Monday, fog cleared the horizon as the nova receded from the buoy. When the fog cleared, the sea in front of the ship erupted with gushing whales and leaping sea lions. The boat shut down its engines and Dr. Macquarie pulled out a camera with a long lens in an attempt to identify some of the nine humpback whales the researchers had spotted.

The air took on a primordial smell, like whale-breath fish, as the entire crew marveled at the wildness on display. Then the radio crackled. The Vessel Traffic Service, which manages the movement of ships in and out of the bay, said Nova had to leave the channel because of large vessels passing through. Scientists have radioed that they should be warned that a large vessel is heading to the area where the whales have been sighted.

While Nova Back in San Francisco, Dr. McCauley said he couldn’t help but think of the recently deceased Fran as he framed a feeding humpback for a photo.

“It was supposed to be her,” he said, pulling his voice a little.

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