Folks sent out on boats daily would return with a week’s worth of data sheets. Another week would be spent inputting the whale-sighting information.
By the time the information was available, it was already outdated.
For Hastings, resource protection coordinator for the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, real time information is crucial to alerting cargo container and other ships en route to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach when they are within striking distance of whales who are in the area to feed.
Now there’s an app for that.
Whale Alert is being offered for free on mobile devices by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. It was developed in partnership with private and public sectors, including government agencies, academic institutions and nonprofit conservation groups. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere.
“It’s expanding our eyes on the water,” Hastings said, adding that the app has been downloaded 5,000 times. “Whale Alert is one way to do it better.”
Available on iPhone, iPad and soon on Android devices, Whale Alert was originally developed in 2012 to protect endangered whales traveling the East Coast. It’s recently expanded to the West Coast with an updated, 2.0 version of the app that allows the public to report live, distressed or dead whale sightings and quickly upload the data.
The real-time information warns ocean carriers of whales in their shipping lanes and gives them time to slow their ships to avoid the deadly collisions.
On April 12, a dead 56-foot male fin whale, an endangered species, was found floating in the Port of Los Angeles on the northern edge of Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. Researchers determined that the whale died as a result of blunt force trauma — likely a vessel collision.
In 2007, four blue whales were killed by ships in or near the Santa Barbara Channel, while two blue, one humpback and two fin whales suffered the same fate in 2010 in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast.
In 2013, the Ever Dainty — an Evergreen container ship from Panama — struck and dragged on its bow a 50-foot-long fin whale into the Port of Los Angeles.
“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 that scientists can use to inform management and better protect whale populations.”
Other new app features include information about California Marine Protected Areas and Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System tide and weather data.
“The public sightings that come in are hugely valuable,” said Brad Winney, co-founder of Conserve.IO , a technology partner involved in the Whale Alert app. “The more data, the better the chances are for whale survival.”
Visit whalealert.org for more information.
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