Friday, July 12, 2013

Top Story

"Spotter" app to protect whales from ship strikes

It's good to be a whale in the San Francisco bay these days, with a big krill bloom providing plenty of food and new shipping routes and regulations in the area designed to protect them from the huge vessels. And now a new "spotter" app allows ship captains to pinpoint real-time whale locations on a map, which will create a registry of whale sightings that can be used to further adjust shipping lanes in response to whale populations.

A user can record the location of whale sightings and any relevant behaviors and photos. The app uses a device's GPS to capture the exact location of the sighting and can also catalog weather, sending all information to a cloud database.

"It's really our eyes and ears on the water," said Michael Carver, Deputy Superintendent for the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, which, along with other groups, intends to use the data to create dynamic management areas.

"We're looking at creative strategies to change the distribution of vessels based on real-time information about where the whales might be at any given time," said Leslie Abramson, a resource protection specialist with the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

The industry is on board with the Spotter Pro, available at the App Store, which may help protect whales in cases where regulations don't. The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association has donated funds towards the development of the app and has helped create educational posters to familiarize crews with whale species and reporting methods.

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