By Michael Carver, Deputy Superintendent, Cordell Bank NMS
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in collaboration with Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation, Point Blue Conservation Science, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Conserve I.O, and others initiated a whale spotter program to help reduce ship strikes. The program is still being developed, but the objective is to have people on ships or at promontories such as Point Reyes and the Farallon Islands report whale sightings. One of the largest group of users is the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary naturalist corp who are using the app to report sightings of whales in near-real-time.
Data from Spotter Pro helps augment the rigorous line transect data collected by NOAA scientists on the distribution of whales on the west coast. The data from the app is used by NOAA to direct targeted over flights surveys to ground truth the reports. If there is a concentration of whales, a local notice to mariners will be broadcast over NOAA weather radio and via USCG channels, to alert boats to keep a sharp look-out, exercise caution, and reduce speed to decrease the potential for ship strikes.
The first year of beta testing revealed that Spotter Pro is an ideal tool for trained naturalists who are familiar with recording track-lines, effort data and various other metrics but that perhaps a more generic version was needed for the broader maritime community. NOAA is working with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Conserve I.O, Point Blue and others to help make a more general audience version available in 2014.
For more information contact Michael.Carver@noaa.gov
Spotter Pro app: http://youtu.be/CFQS514ZVSk