Local agency develops new technology in Bay Area to keep whales safe; here’s how it works

San Francisco (KGO)—— Agencies including NOAA, Farallon Bay, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the Marine Mammal Center have been closely watching for deadly collisions between whales and large ocean-going vessels

But now, a new system is being deployed to protect whales transiting coastal and Bay Area waters. It’s called whale safe. The buoy-based technology was developed by partners, including the Benioff Marine Science Laboratory and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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“So the new Benioff-funded buoys announced today will help us achieve our goals, will help us achieve the advice our advisors have given us, and improve our understanding of the distribution and numbers of whales in these waters. San Francisco, fills this important evidence gap,” said Maria Brown, director of Farallon Bay, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

The developers say artificial intelligence helps enable the acoustic monitoring technology deployed by Whale Safe. The system combines sound data with whale habitat models and recorded whale sightings. The result is a cross-guarding system for whales in which agencies, shipping companies, researchers and even the public can monitor vessel speeds and whale interactions in coastal waters.

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“Therefore, having a complete picture of whale presence throughout the year will inform more pheromone and Cordell Bank reserves that we need to further reduce data on ships striking whales,” Brown said.

They hope the whale safety system will help reduce the collisions that kill some 80 endangered whales off the West Coast each year — and perhaps give them a voice in keeping our waters safer. The team said the data will also be used by the Benioff Marine Science Laboratory and the Marine Mammal Center to help develop additional safety measures in the future.

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