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  • Writer's pictureArnaud Pourchez

Safeguarding the Giants: Harnessing Technologies to Protect North Atlantic Right Whales

The North Atlantic Right Whale (NARW) is one of the most endangered species in the world, with only a few hundred individuals remaining. The recent death of a female NARW off the coast of Virginia due to a collision with a boat is a stark reminder of the urgent need for action to protect these individuals. We cannot afford to lose any more of these incredible animals.

The Need for Urgent Action 

More needs to be done to ensure the survival of the NARW. We can and we must do more to protect them. Just as we use every tool available to protect our children around schools (signage, speed restrictions, patrollers and others), we must adopt a similar approach to protect whales and people in the ocean.

The Power of Existing Technologies

NARW are highly prioritized in terms of regulatory and monitoring efforts, but with so few remaining individuals, we need to employ all available resources to aid in their survival. The WAVS Taskforce, a coalition of which Whale Seeker is a part and co-founded, is dedicated to breaking down silos and collaborating across expertises and industries to advance technologies safeguarding NARWs. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to put the puzzle pieces together.

A Suite of Detection Tools

After years of R&R, hardware and analytical software are converging with robust methodology to deliver reliable and effective monitoring for conservation tools. Hence, several tools can be used to detect and protect marine mammals:

  • Acoustic detection: Using buoys with hydrophones, this technology picks up whale calls, and can provide real-time data on whale presence, when they are vocally active. While NARWs vocalize less frequently than other species, acoustic detection can be used in strategic areas to indicate whale presence trends.

  • Visual detection via images from drones and aircraft: High-resolution cameras capture images over large marine areas, for example; surveying protected areas to alert managers of whale presence.

  • Infrared (IR) image detection: Detecting thermal signatures of whales near the surface by detecting the whale blow, IR detection is a powerful tool for avoiding whales during nighttime and low-visibility conditions.

  • Satellite imagery: Offering the broadest coverage, satellite imagery can identify migration patterns and help plan navigation routes accordingly.

The Ecological Imperative

The synergistic and interpretable deployment of these technologies is crucial for the survival of the NARW. Each detection method not only aids in the direct protection of NARWs but also contributes to our broader understanding of marine ecosystems. By informing shipping routes, regulating fishing areas, and enhancing our scientific knowledge, these technologies represent our best hope for coexistence with marine life.

“Advances in AI, scientific instrumentation, and methods for comprehensive data product transmission and visualization have led to a pivotal point in the use of technology for monitoring and mitigation. Leveraging these resources for combined and complementary surveillance is an important leap for conservation efforts as it relates to the long-term viability of marine mammal populations.”

— Liz Ferguson, CEO Ocean Science Analytics, Marine Ecologist & Bioacoustician

The fate of the North Atlantic Right Whale hangs in the balance. By embracing a combination of existing technologies and working together, we can ensure a safer future for these incredible creatures. Let us take action today to protect the NARW and preserve the beauty of our ocean ecosystems for generations to come.

At Whale Seeker, we are committed to using AI tools to process data collected by these technologies, enabling faster detection and protection of marine mammals. Reach out to learn more about our efforts and how we can collaborate to make a meaningful impact.


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