Some of the same characteristics that made right whales so attractive to whalers – their coastal milieu, their habit of swimming slowly and close to the surface – makes them especially vulnerable to ship strikes, and as a result the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has established a series of measures to reduce the likelihood of collisions. These include mandatory speed restrictions and voluntary vessel re-routing in certain areas at certain times.
However, providing mariners with real-time information on right whale whereabouts has been a challenge, with ship pilots who asked to receive whale conservation data relying on radio, e-mails, and faxes of whale sighting locations. Now, however, NOAA, in association with the National Park Service, the United States Coast Guard, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and other partners, has produced an app for iPads and iPhones that provides those real-time updates.
A key feature of the app, called Whale Alert, is a display that provides information from a system of acoustic buoys that listen for right whale calls in and around Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The app also uses Global Positioning System (GPS), Automatic Identification System (AIS), the World-Wide Web, and digital nautical chart technologies to alert mariners to NOAA's right whale conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity.