Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Bioacoustics Research Program (BRP) at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have teamed up with an international energy company and federal regulators to listen for and help protect endangered North Atlantic right whales in New England waters.
Building on advances in ocean mooring design, underwater acoustic systems, and telecommunications, the team built and installed ten auto-detection buoys to listen for the calls of right whales along the main shipping lanes into Massachusetts Bay and Boston Harbor.
The array of instrumentsconceived by biologist and engineer Christopher W. Clark of the Cornell Lab and engineer John Kemp of WHOIwas largely funded by Excelerate Energy, L.L.C., as part of its environmental compliance associated with its Northeast Gateway deepwater port for liquefied natural gas (LNG). The import facility is set to begin operations in spring 2008.
The new listening system allows researchers to detect the location of whales in real time and alert ship operators and coastal resource managers to their presence. With advance warning, ships can be slowed or re-routed to prevent collisions, which is the most common cause of death for the iconic New England whale.
Marine biologists estimate that only 350 to 400 right whales remain in the North Atlantic.
"North Atlantic right whales migrate through a highly industrialized part of the coastline, and we need creative solutions to help them survive, said Kemp, an engineer in WHOIs Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering. The challenge was to develop a mooring that could stand up to the stresses of harsh New England waters while keeping an acoustically quiet environment for the hydrophones."
Mandated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the whale-detection system was installed along a 55 nautical mile segment of the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme (
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution