New iOS App Helps Ship Captains Avoid Whale Collisions
Whale Alerts, a new iOS app released today, is designed to help mariners avoid collisions with endangered North Atlantic right whales by displaying whale locations on a real-time, digital map.
There are only around 400 North Atlantic right whales left in the world today, according to International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), one of the collaborators on the app. With such a small population, the right whales are one of the rarest large animals and are close to extinction. Collisions with ships is currently the leading cause of death for these remaining whales.
To prevent ships from striking whales, Whale Alerts works by linking near-real-time acoustic buoys that listen for whale calls to an iOS device in a ship’s bridge. Using these whale calls, a GPS system and a vessel’s Automatic Identification System (AIS), the app displays a whale’s location in relation to a ship’s location on a digital nautical chart. The app also sends alerts with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conservation measures when a ship enters a conservation area.
Prior to this technology, ship pilots who asked to receive whale conservation data relied on radio, e-mails, and even faxes of whale sighting locations. Even if mariners opted to receive whale sighting information, the process of plotting the whale’s location in relation to the ship’s location was a time-consuming task.
“The app that we unveiled today integrates all of this information and puts it in real time,” Global Whale Program Director for IFAW Patrick Ramage told Wired. “iPad technology is changing ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can.’ As of today, the mariner is able to save whales.”