Marine Research and Conservation Agencies Unite to Extend Whale Conservation Technology to San Francisco Bay - YubaNet

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September 21, 2022 – Three weeks ago, the hearts of marine scientists and whale enthusiasts were shattered when the carcass of California’s most popular humpback whale, known as “Fran,” washed ashore in Half Moon Bay. Her skull detached from her spine and fractured her vertebrae.

“For those of us in the marine science community, this was a true tragedy,” said Douglas McCauley, professor and director of the Benioff Institute of Marine Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “I woke up to find that Smokey the Bear had been killed in a car accident.” Beloved by people who had witnessed her hundreds of times over the years, Fran was a local The fate of her calf is currently unknown.

Fran is just the latest casualty in a disturbing and long-standing trend of whaling strikes occurring in or near San Francisco Bay, which hosts California’s third busiest container port. The Port of Oakland loads and unloads nearly all container cargo moving through Northern California. At the same time, its cold waters provide abundant feeding grounds for endangered creatures, and as a result, it’s also one of California’s top whale-boat attack hotspots.

Kathy George, Field Operations and Response Director at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Since early 2021, the center has responded to his 30 dead whales, eight of which (including Fran) have shown evidence of ship collisions.

Fortunately, things are changing. The Benioff Institute for Marine Science (formerly the Benioff Ocean Initiative), along with a consortium of research and conservation agencies, have united to launch Whale Safe in San Francisco Bay. Up and down the Northern California coast. Combining technology and conservation science, the goal is to alert giant ships the size of skyscrapers of whales’ presence. Vessels in the region can slow down to avoid collisions, a major killer of endangered whales.

If this intervention is well implemented, it has other important benefits as well. The slower the ship, the lower the CO2 emissions, and live whales store carbon equivalent to thousands of trees. Slower ships are also good for our health, especially in low-income areas around ports. mitigate.

Marc Benioff, Chairman and Co-CEO of Salesforce, said: “Whale ship collisions continue to be the leading cause of death for endangered whales, but with these new kinds of monitoring technology and warning systems, fatalities are beginning to decline. is a triple good for the planet: we save whales, we fight climate change and we reduce air pollution to improve the health of our communities.Solutions such as these, born from the combination of science and business, will make more Is required.”

Also today, the Benioffs announced a $60 million donation to the University of California, Santa Barbara, expanding research at the Benioff Institute of Marine Science. This is his one of the largest known charitable contributions to marine science.

“We welcome the bustling blue economy,” said Macquarie. “Marine science can help grow marine businesses while reducing their environmental footprint. We aim to make a difference by bringing together all stakeholders, including communities, retailers, the shipping industry and governments, to solve this complex problem.

“Despite the fact that they are some of the largest animals that have ever lived on Earth, whales are hard to find in the even larger oceans.” and peer researchers, and then work with data scientists and software engineers to bring this data to the shipping companies in a useful format.We work with Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc. shipping customers to help reinforce the importance of keeping endangered whale deaths out of their supply chains. We need to step up all this work, and use data to inform the public of the dangers these whales face, and they have to hold all these actors accountable. for there is a true power to help

Proven technology

Whale Safe is the first whale detection system of its kind in the Pacific. It started two years ago in the Santa Barbara Channel. This area is where whales’ ancient migratory routes overlap with some of the busiest shipping routes in the world. Cargo ships entering and leaving the Port of Los Angeles rush into the Strait, which is bounded by the California coast on one side and the Channel Islands on the other.

Giant ships ramming whales are nothing new. Since 2007, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and collaborators have successfully slowed these vessels to speeds of 10 knots (11.5 mph) voluntarily in the Channel. When a ship slows down, the results can be dramatic, with up to 90% fewer fatalities on whaleboats.

Yet in 2018 and 2019, ships and whales collided at alarming rates. In response, Macquarie, Benioff and his Oceans team launched an ambitious program aimed at predicting the presence of whales and detecting them in near real time as they migrated through the Channel. Working with colleagues at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), University of Washington (UW), University of California, Santa Cruz, Conserve.IO and NOAA, scientists harness his AI combined with a well-designed sound system. A monitoring system to “listen” to whale songs. Near real-time prediction of whale feeding grounds based on ocean data. His mobile app called Whale Alert that collects sightings reported by trained naturalists and citizen scientists. This information has been integrated into publicly accessible online maps that show how busy the Strait is with whale and ship traffic. With this information, tankers, cargo ships, and other large ocean-going vessels are encouraged to slow down, and in return are “rated” for their cooperation.

and it’s working.

“Each year since WhaleSafe first launched, we have seen an increase in ship cooperation rates, which is good news,” said Macquarie. “This is a collaborative effort that builds on years of success NOAA and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary have been working to slow ships in the Channel.”

whale school zone
Armed with experience on the Central Coast and backed by Lynne and Marc Benioff’s generous donation to the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Whale Safe team wishes them continued success in the San Francisco Bay.

“We are excited to partner with the Marine Mammal Center to bring the next Whale Safe System to the Bay Area, another hotspot for whale-ship collisions,” said McCauley. The research team at the SF Bay Node is made up of many of the same parties that launched the program in the Santa Barbara Channel (WHOI, UW, UCSC, NTNU, Conserve.IO), this time with Point Blue Conservation Science, The Marine Mammal Center participated. and the Cascadia Research Collective. The Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University is also an important data provider.

Similar to the Santa Barbara Whale Safe, the Bay Area node will also monitor vessels within voluntary vessel deceleration zones issued by NOAA. In this zone, large vessels are required to slow her to 10 knots or less. Kari Steffen, project scientist at the Benioff Institute for Marine Science, said: “Analysis on vessels in these slow whale zones will now be shared directly with shipping lines and their retail partners so they can work together to strategically protect these endangered whales. became.

“The Bay Area has been a prime candidate for expanding Whale Safe for many reasons,” added Steffen. Another California area where he is concerned about whaling collisions. “In addition to providing feeding grounds for endangered blue, fin and humpback whales, many large freighters transit the route from Los Angeles/Long Beach to Oakland, where a second Whale Safe Deploying the system will allow us to gain more insight into the presence of whales on the California coast.”

Whale Safe’s modular and scalable system allows the technology to be tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of the region. In San Francisco Bay, for example, the seafloor depth is different than in the Santa Barbara Channel, requiring a new approach to mooring acoustic buoys. The San Francisco system will also focus on blue whale habitat and feeding models that leverage satellite data collection to reliably measure whale presence in the area.

This San Francisco milestone, though crucial, is just another step toward a larger ambition to save whales from ship attacks in busy ports elsewhere in the United States. Whales will need all of our help to survive as climate change alters their migration patterns.

For more information on Benioff Institute of Marine Science research, click here.