Whale and commercial ship collisions are a tragic side effect of global shipping, but a new app called Whale Spotter has been designed to arrest such occurrences. In the busy ports of the San Francisco Bay Area, more than 7,300 large ships head through the Golden Gate each year. Their routes often coincide with whales swimming along the continental shelf, where their food supply is plentiful. In order to reduce the amount of collisions and whale deaths each year, government officials teamed up with sailors, fishermen and marine scientists to build an app that can spot whales on a user-friendly, interactive map.
The idea is that the Whale Spotter app would use crowd sourced data to create maps that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Coast Guard officials can rely on to recommend different vessel routes.
A collaborative effort between shipping companies, government officials and scientists, the app could go a long way to preventing whale strikes. Speaking to The Huffington Post, John Berge, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association said: “Everybody agrees that we need to try to keep whales and ships separated physically to the greatest extent possible. Right now, we know where the ships are, but we don’t know where the whales are.”
Although new traffic lanes have been created to get liners away from whales, several deaths have still occurred, including an endangered Fin whale. But if whale spotters off the coast spy whale pods and enter the information onto the app, then the sea mammals can be tracked in real time. Of course, cell phone coverage at sea is not that reliable, but GPS on phones (which is constantly tracked by satellite) could be used instead.
Dan Howard, superintendent of the Cordell Bank sanctuary, is hopeful that the app will make a big difference. “Having data on whale movement is key to working with the shipping industry and making informed management decisions.”