Friday, April 20, 2012

An App for Saving Whales

It ain't easy being a right whale: never has been.
The ancient mariners didn't regard 'em as the "right whales" to hunt for nothing - they swam slowly and close to shore, floated when harpooned, and contained lotsa lotsa oil. Hunted hard by commercial whalers, their numbers plunged. Although populations are returning in the Sthrn.Hemisphere, they're very low in both the N.Pacific and N.Atlantic.
The N.Atlantic population is estimated at only around 400, and unfortunately, the majority live at least part of the year off the northeastern US, heavily trafficked by shipping. Nearly three-quarters of known right whales have scars from fishing gear, while 29% of right whale deaths since 1970 are from ship collisions.
As a result the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) introduced measures to reduce the likelihood of collisions, incl. speed restrictions and voluntary vessel re-routing in certain areas at certain times. Now NOAA has produced an app for iPads and iPhones that provides real-time updates of whale positions!
The app, called Whale Alert, provides info from a system of acoustic buoys that listen for right whale calls. It also uses GPS, Automatic Identification System (AIS), the web, and digital nautical chart technologies to alert mariners to NOAA's right whale conservation measures that are active in their immediate area.
While nothing can completely stop accidental human impact on whale populations, this app is a step in the "right" direction.
Just don't let the nasty Nippon whalers get it!!!

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