Applaud Organization for Developing App that Helps Protect Whales

Target: Point Blue Conservation Science

Goal: Commend organization for developing a web application for tablets and smartphones that tracks whales in real-time to help avoid collisions with ships.

Near San Francisco and other port cities, many species of endangered whales, including humpbacks, grays, fins, and blues, have been killed or injured by cargo ships. The International Whaling Commission documents hundreds of whale deaths and injuries by ship strikes globally. Baleen whales congregate to feed in krill rich waters that are often very busy traffic areas for ships. Changes in oceanic conditions are also to blame for inconvenient new habitats of rebounding whale populations.

Point Blue Conservation Science, a California Bay Area nonprofit conservation research organization, has partnered with mobile application developer Earth NC to launch an app that will be used to minimize potential collisions between ships and whales as part of its Whale Aware Program. In its innovative large-scale project, Point Blue Conservation Science is working closely with federal scientific agencies to implement various actions that will protect whales from shipping traffic along the west coast.

The web application, ‘Spotter,’ is deployed for use by whale watching, charter fishing, recreational, and commercial boats to gather data from a large group of observers. The practice of gathering data in this way is known as ‘crowdsourcing.’ The app tags the whale sightings with the observer’s location and then the information is sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in real-time. Real-time data can be used to create a warning system that can be interpreted by the National Marine Sanctuaries and the Coast Guard to alert ships to slow down or change routes.

In addition, the app will fill data gaps for scientists who are investigating the movement patterns of whales near shipping ports. Understanding the behavior of whales will inspire more solutions to provide safety for these creatures. The whale-spotting app will be launched to cover National Marine Sanctuaries in the Channel Islands, the Bay Area, and Washington. Commend Point Blue Conservation Science for their innovative and solution-oriented work in protecting whales from ship strikes and engaging those who operate the ships to participate in conservation.


Dear Point Blue Conservation Science,

I would like to commend your organization for developing the ‘Spotter’ web application as part of your Whale Aware Program to protect endangered species from collisions with ships. The launch of this app and related exemplary efforts to monitor whale sightings and control ship traffic on the US West Coast have demonstrated that it is possible to have cooperation between scientists, conservationists, and the shipping industry. Cooperative collaboration between different groups utilizing the ocean’s natural resources is the only way that conservation goals can successfully be achieved.

Engaging participation from citizens who use shipping ports for a variety of consumption builds solidarity and stewardship of our shared ocean and its wildlife. Improved and increased data collection through the use of tracking with modern technology will help create a much-needed warning system to minimize intersections of whales and ships. ‘Spotter’ will also provide scientists with more information on the movement of whales, which can contribute to ideas for future conservation actions. Please continue to further and apply scientific knowledge to the conservation of whales and other endangered species and habitats.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: dryoptera via Flickr

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