New app helps mariners avoid whales

05 Apr 2012
Whale Alert, a free app, can be downloaded from the App Store. Credit: NOAA

Whale Alert, a free app, can be downloaded from the App Store. Credit: NOAA

Mariners along the US east coast can now download a new iPad and iPhone app that warns them when they enter areas of high risk of collision with critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.

The free Whale Alert app provides one source for information about right whale management measures and the latest data about right whale detections, all overlaid on NOAA digital charts.

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.

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 350 to 550 animals. Collision with ships is a leading cause of right whale death.

The link to the listening network is only part of what Whale Alert does. The app uses GPS, Automatic Identification System, Internet and digital nautical chart technologies to alert mariners to NOAA’s right whale conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity.

Whale Alert has been developed by a collaboration of government agencies, academic institutions, non-profit conservation groups and private sector industries, led by scientists at NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Whale Alert can be downloaded free of charge from the App store.

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