Mariners along the U.S. east coast can now download a new iPad and iPhone application that warns them when they enter areas of high risk of collision with critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.
Using nautical chart information on the iPhone or iPad, the free Whale Alert app alerts mariners when their vessels enter right whale management areas, and provides the latest data about right whale detections.
"Whale Alert represents an innovative collaboration to protect this critically endangered species," said David Wiley, NOAA's Stellwagen Bank sanctuary research coordinator and project lead. "Whale conservation is greater than any one organization and this project shows how many organizations can unite for a good cause."
A key feature of Whale Alert is a display linking near real-time acoustic buoys that listen for right whale calls to an iPad or iPhone on a ship's bridge showing the whale's presence to captains transiting the shipping lanes in and around Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. "The idea that right whales are directly contributing to conservation through their own calls is pretty exciting," said Christopher Clark, whose team at the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology helped develop the acoustic detection and warning system.
North Atlantic right whales, which live along North America's east coast from Nova Scotia to Florida, are one of the world's rarest large animals and a species on the brink of extinction. Recent estimates put the population of North Atlantic right whales at approximately 300 to 450 animals. Collision with ships is a leading cause of right whale death.
"In addition to increasing the chances of right whale survival, Whale Alert also decreases the risk of mariners being fined for violating regulations," said Deborah Hadden, deputy port director for the Massachusetts Port Authority. "The shipping industry does not want to strike whales. Whale A
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