Local agencies develop new technology in the Bay Area to keep whales safe; See how it works here

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Agencies including NOAA, the Bay of Farallon, Cordell Banks National Marine Sanctuary and the Marine Mammal Center are keeping a close eye on a deadly pattern, collisions between whales and large ocean-going vessels.

But now, a new system is being deployed to protect whales crossing the coast and Bay Area waters. It is known as Whale Safe. The buoy-based technology was developed by a partnership, which includes the Benioff Ocean Science Lab and UC Santa Cruz.

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“So today’s announcement of the new Benioff-funded buoy that will help us reach our goal will help us achieve this recommendation that has been given to us by our advisors, and help us understand the distribution and abundance of whales in these waters.” will improve our understanding. San Francisco, filling this important evidence gap,” said Maria Brown, director of the Bay of Waters at Cordell Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

The developers say the artificial intelligence helps enable an acoustic monitoring technology deployed by Whale Safe. The system pairs sound data with whale habitat models and records whale sightings. The result is a crossing guard system of sorts for whales, where agencies, shipping companies, researchers and even the public can monitor vessel movements and whale interactions in coastal waters.

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“So having a more complete understanding of whale presence throughout the year will lead to more pheromones and notice to Cordell Bank sanctuaries, which is the data we need to reduce ship attacks on whales,” Brown said.

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He hopes the Whale Safe System will help reduce the collisions that kill an estimated 80 endangered whales off the West Coast each year—and perhaps give them a voice in keeping our waters safe. The team says the data will also be used by the Benioff Ocean Science Lab and The Marine Mammal Center to help develop additional safeguards for the future.

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