About 80 whales are killed every year along the California coast because of collisions with ships, but a new “mapping and analysis tool” called Whale Safe thinks it can eliminate these collisions entirely.
The whales are showing up earlier in the Bay and along the Pacific Coast, and coming closer to shore than they had in previous years. While this delights whale watchers, it is probably a depressing effect of climate change, likely because their delicious prey is also moving closer to shore. And it also creates more fatal collisions with ships for the whales, with a whale advocacy organization called Whale Safe estimating that “2018, 2019, and 2021 Were the Worst Years on Record for Whale-Ship Collisions off the West Coast of the United States.”
The organization Whale Safe just started applying their whale tracking to the San Francisco Bay and our Pacific Coastline. (As you see above, today’s San Francisco whale presence is “Very High.”) And the New York Times has a new writeup about Whale Safe’s attempts to prevent ship collisions, using technology, and some generous donations from Marc Benioff.
“Whale Safe uses three data streams,” as the Times explains. “The buoys use algorithms to listen to and identify blue, fin and humpback whale calls and transmit the results to satellites. Mathematical models based on current and historical oceanographic and biological data predict where blue whales are most likely to be. Citizen scientists and trained observers report whale sightings through the app Whale Alert.”
“The near real-time aspect of Whale Safe’s alerts and being able to know where the whales are 24 hours a day is very unique and gives us more information to share with vessels coming in and out of the bay” Maria Brown, superintendent of the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries tells the Times.
Whale Safe has been operating mostly in just the Santa Barbara area, but has apparently been quite effective at its objective. The Times notes that “In 2021, WhaleSafe’s first year-round operation in the Santa Barbara Channel, no whale-ship interactions were recorded in the region.” Now that they’re here in San Francisco, we can hope they see the same success.
Image: Paramount Pictures