Artificial intelligence helps avoid collisions between whales and ships

A new system aims to prevent watercraft from running over animals.

Collisions with ships are among the most common causes of death for humpback whales and other endangered species. This year, five whales have already died in San Francisco Bay as a result of collisions with ships. The latest victim was a local celebrity. THE Fran The carcass of a humpback whale washed ashore in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, at the end of August. The investigation found clear signs of the accident. The marine mammal was first seen in 2005 and has been seen 276 times since then. Since then, marine researchers have been concerned about Fran’s young calf, To Aria for the sake of his well-being, who is now alone.

One of the most common causes of death for humpback whales and other cetaceans that often stay close to the surface of the water is being run over by ships. This is due to the fact that they often operate in waters that are also crossed by busy shipping routes. A 2019 study compared the situation to land animals whose habitats are crisscrossed by freeways and highways. Whale strikes are the aquatic equivalent of wildlife accidents.


A Whale Safe project aims to provide technical assistance fix it on the situation. It was launched in 2020 by billionaire Marc Benioff, head of Salesforce, and cooperates with research institutes such as Marine Mammal Center. Along with this, a defense system will now be tested off the coast of San Francisco.

Buoys equipped with microphones are placed along the coast to record the whales’ communications. An artificial intelligence then analyzes the data in terms of quantity and position, and then provides an assessment that provides information on the probability of being present in different parts of the water. This allows captains to avoid collisions. The system also receives data on the speed of various ships and writes short analyzes of the operators’ voluntary speed reductions. The scientists behind Whale Safe say slowing down is the most important action you can take to protect whales. Previously, the technology was also tested at Santa Barbara, where one of the most important freight routes runs along the west coast of the United States of America. In the first full year of operation, not a single collision occurred.


John Calambokidis of the Cascadia Research Collective, who has worked on artificial intelligence models for whale detection, welcomed the project in principle because real-time detection improves safety, but especially because it raises awareness of the threat to whales. However, he also pointed out that Whale Safe is not a stand-alone solution, especially because the system basically detects the presence of whales, but does not know how far they are or in what direction they are moving. In addition, some whales can barely make themselves heard, which makes them difficult to detect with the system. Previous artificial intelligence models were not made for the scale of cruises. The specialist would therefore consider stricter speed regulation and the relocation of shipping routes away from the whales’ territory as a more consistent solution.

In addition to Whale Safe, scientists are also investigating other technical solutions. For example, they are currently testing the detection of whales with infrared cameras, but this is very expensive. There are also experiments with ultrasonic beacons that are said to acoustically warn whales of approaching ships. However, it has been observed that not all whales respond to this, and that this approach contributes to the already increasing “noise pollution” of the oceans.


Source: SG.hu Hírmagazin by sg.hu.

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