Luckily, boat collisions with whales are rare in the Pacific Northwest. But when it happens, it’s upsetting, tragic, and probably the whale is dead. We have developed a smartphone-based system that can alert commercial seafarers to change course. A recent ride on a large container ship showed that real-time whale alerts are still on the way.
Puget Sound pilot Jostein Kalvoy was tasked with leading the 1,000-foot container ship SM Yantian out to sea on a Friday night in late October from Seattle Harbor. From the waterline her 15-story bridge blared with the crackling of the radio, interrupting the crew’s native languages of Korean and Indonesian conversation when Carboy boarded.
Captain Calvoy soon had a lot of work to do: coordinating the tugs, ordering the right amount of engine power, signaling the helmsmen, and monitoring ferry and fishing boat crossing traffic. And, as if that wasn’t enough, an app on his smartphone reports that an endangered Southern resident killer whale was sighted earlier in the day on a voyage to the north. I got
“If you see them or see reports, stay alert and stay clear of their path and stay away,” Calboy said.
By the time the ship slows past Whidbey Island, the site where endangered killer whales were previously spotted, it gets dark.
“I’m looking into WRAS, the Whale Report Alert System app,” explained Calboy, examining a digital map on a smartphone designed specifically for commercial seafarers. Switch to another app. “
That second app was another proprietary whale location map. This is based on the latest sightings from commercial whale watching tour captains. The Pacific Whale Watch Association trade group allows Puget Sound pilots and state ferry captains to use his PWWA app for free.
“This morning we found out there was a sighting about 10 hours ago,” said Calboy, who scanned the PWWA app and found an icon representing a whale near his ship’s real-time location. .
But the pressing question of where the endangered killer whales are today remained. At this point, he created his third app, simply named Whale Alert. Currently, he collects and shares sightings from the public, primarily those submitted to his non-profit Orca Network. This evening, he happened to have the latest report on his third app. It showed that a pod of 25 killer whales had moved into the Saratoga Strait, well out of the shipping lane.
“It’s safer for them, safer for us,” Carboy observed with some satisfaction. I added that I can’t.
“You can easily lose your situational awareness when you get stuck in the depths,” Calboy said. “Suddenly, the minutes are ticking away and your focus shifts to reporting whales and not navigating. That’s not what we really want.”
Elling Gress, Executive Director of the Pacific Whale Watch Association, said: , in an interview a few days later.
On most days, her group’s technology displays the largest number of recent whale sightings. PWWA has been asked multiple times to share that data with her WRAS, another restricted app for captains of commercial ships, Greth said. Gless advocates reciprocity. The answer from her Columbia-based conservation group Ocean Wise, the operator of her WRAS, is no dice.
“Of course, we are a professional whale watching vessel, so there is some hesitation that if we knew where the whales were, we were more likely to go see them, but this is a true statement.
Gress said her group was also wary of sharing PWWA’s valuable data because of the uncertainty about how it might be used beyond whale notifications to captains of large vessels and ferries. I said yes.
“There are still a lot of question marks,” Gless said, referring to, for example, whether location histories could be obtained by regulators and groups opposing boat-based whale watching.
According to Gress, professional whale watchers are required to report sightings of Southern Resident killer whales specifically to WRAS as a condition of their tour boat licenses, and operators do so.
Donna Sandstrom, leader of a Seattle-based nonprofit that promotes whale watching on the shore, sometimes talks about how difficult it is to dismantle the silos that hold near-real-time whale sighting data. “It hurts my chest,” he said.
“Our overriding concern is ensuring that large vessel operators and Washington’s fish and wildlife enforcement agencies have the data they need as quickly as possible,” said Sand, executive director of Whale Trails. Strom said.
Like Sandstrom, Orcasound’s Scott Veirs said one way people from all walks of life can contribute to the survival of the endangered Pacific Northwest killer whales is by sharing whale sightings with local sightings. It says to report to the information network.
Another person trying to get all the industries and humans involved is Rachel Aronson from Seattle. She leads the government-funded Quiet Sounds project to reduce the impact of ships on killer whales.
“My long-term dream is that in about three to five years, we will have a really active human user community, and the hydrophones will actively report whale sightings,” Aronson said. says. A camera that can spot whales from the surface when they are not singing in the water and when there are few humans watching them in the dark or rain. “
That long-term vision would require artificial intelligence to process feeds from underwater microphones and infrared cameras, possibly mounted atop lighthouses. Aronson foresees major improvements with new data-sharing agreements in the near future. She says behind-the-scenes programmers will automatically import sightings from Orca Network’s shore-based observers (now available through her Whale Alert app) into a restricted app for captains of commercial ships. said he was working on
Ship attacks are killing various whales in the Northwest
At least a few times each year, the risk of fatal ship collisions becomes very real in the waters of the Salish Sea. A dead minke whale was found last month near Orcas Island with severe bruises and fractured vertebrae and ribs, according to the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
In March of this year, a rare fin whale that visited Puget Sound died near Pender Harbor, northwest of Vancouver, British Columbia. An autopsy conducted by Fisheries and Ocean Canada speculated that the 40-foot whale died of blunt force trauma, most likely from a boat collision.
In 2017, a fin whale was found impaled on the bow of a cargo ship in Tacoma’s Commention Bay. The freshly killed whale was probably hit in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, shortly before its outbound journey.
In the summer of 2021, sailors found the carcass of a humpback whale floating off Vancouver Island near Swiftsure Bank with deep lacerations consistent with damage from a large ship’s propeller. Car ferries collided with juvenile humpback whales near Mukilteo, Washington in spring 2020 and British She in spring 2019 near ferry terminals in Seattle and Tsawwassen, Columbia. I could look them up. Washington State Ferries and BC Ferries are among the first to adopt her WRAS app in the Pacific Northwest.
The Canadian Coast Guard recently installed what it calls the “first-of-its-kind Marine Mammal Desk” at the Ship Traffic Center in Sydney, British Columbia. Marine Mammal Desk observers monitor all real-time whale sightings and then send alerts to specific vessels as needed. Some whale advocates have suggested the U.S. Coast Guard set up a similar whale desk at the Sea Traffic Coordination Center in Seattle, but the Coast Guard has not been instructed to do so by other Washington officials. .
[Copyright 2022 Northwest News Network]