AI system launched that prevents ships from hitting whales off California

Following the collision with a ship that killed Fran, a famous Californian whale, scientists deployed Whale Safe, to prevent collisions between whales and ships off the San Francisco Bay Area.

Whale Safe, a tech-based mapping and analysis system to help prevent whale-ship collisions, is set to launch in the San Francisco Bay Area, after finding success in Southern California .

The announcement follows the death of Fran, California’s most photographed whale, caused by a collision with a ship.

Whale Safe was developed by the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory, in conjunction with the Marine Mammal Center, to help detect the presence of endangered whales and track vessel speeds to provide data to the shipping industry , the public and government to reduce preventable whale deaths.

“Whale Safe is on a mission to help save the incredible mammals that ruled the oceans for tens of millions of years,” said Marc Benioff, president and co-CEO of Salesforce.

“Whale-ship collisions continue to be a major cause of death for endangered whales, but with these new types of monitoring technology and warning systems, deaths have started to decline. a triple win for the planet – we’re saving whales, fighting climate change and promoting community health by reducing air pollution. We need more solutions like this from alliances between science and businesses.”

WhaleSafe integrates acoustic and visual whale detections with model predictions to provide mariners with the latest information on whale presence. It also uses Automatic Identification System (AIS) data to track vessel speeds and calculate cooperation rates with voluntary speed limits put in place by NOAA and the Coast Guard to protect whales.

In addition to providing an immediate benefit for monitoring vessel speeds, the data will also be recorded and analyzed by the Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory and the Marine Mammal Center to help inform additional preventative safety recommendations.

The first Whale Safe system was deployed in the Santa Barbara Channel near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and will now be deployed off the coast of San Francisco.

“Whaling ship collisions are a global concern, so when solving the problem and building the Whale Safe system, we wanted it to be a model that allowed replication and expansion into more other regions. We are excited to extend the technology and expertise to the San Francisco Bay Area, where ship strikes are a major concern for endangered whales,” said Callie Steffen, head of the Whale Safe project at Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory.

Whales play a vital role in maintaining healthy underwater ecosystems. However, intensive whaling over the past 200 years has brought many populations to the brink of extinction. Although hunting has declined considerably over the past century, another danger threatens the whales: cargo ships.

Blue, fin, humpback and gray whales are vulnerable to ship strikes as they migrate and feed in areas that overlap shipping lanes and routes. Scientists estimate that more than 80 endangered whales are killed each year by ship strikes off the west coast of the United States.

“Whale Safe uses best-in-class technology with best-practice conservation strategies to create a solution to reduce risk to whales,” said Dr. Jeff Boehm, Marine Mammal Center External Relations Manager. “Whales and ships must co-exist in an increasingly busy ocean. Whale Safe San Francisco provides information to make decisions that protect whales while supporting efficient maritime commerce.

The number of known whale deaths from vessel strikes on the West Coast has increased over the past decade and those we see represent only a fraction of the total number that die each year. In fact, scientists estimate that the carcass detection rate is only 5-17%, so the actual number of dead whales is far higher than the number observed and recorded.

Whale Safe relies on an AI-enabled acoustic monitoring system, big data models, and direct whale sightings recorded by trained observers and citizen scientists.

The three data streams are validated, compiled and disseminated into an easily interpretable “whale presence assessment” ranging from low to very high whale activity. Additionally, Expedition Report Cards are created to display a vessel or company’s cooperation with Voluntary Vessel Speed ​​Reduction Zones implemented by NOAA, EPA, and Coast Guard. American. This gives captains of large ships the data they need to know when to slow down, which is the single most effective measure to drastically reduce the number of fatal ship strikes.

“We look forward to the day when ‘Whale Safe’ becomes as ubiquitous as ‘Fair Trade’,” said Dr Boehm. waters.”

After Whale Safe Santa Barbara and the new San Francisco expansion, project leaders plan to expand the use of this tool to other key locations and ports around the world, such as Sri Lanka, Chile, Greece and the Canary Islands.

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