Saving the North Atlantic Right Whale - North AmericaDon't fail our whale
In addition to tracking whales via sight and sound, researchers aboard the IFAW-commissioned research vessel Song of the Whale are using thermal cameras to monitor the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. With only 340 individuals remaining, the species faces the threat of extinction if the human activity causing their injury and death—namely, vessel strikes and entanglement—do not lessen. Monitoring the precise locations of right whales enables IFAW’s researchers to keep mariners informed and prevent such harmful activities—ultimately, working to ensure the North Atlantic right whale’s survival as a species.
Katie Seaberg: We’re at what we would call a boiling point for the North Atlantic right whale. Currently, the latest estimates are about 340 individuals. No one wants the right whale to die, and we’re trying to find ways to ensure the species is protected.
Today we’re here with the vessel Song of the Whale, which has been commissioned by IFAW to do research on the North Atlantic right whale. This boat is really special because it was custom-built to do exactly this.
Greg Reilly: The purpose of this research is to understand their migration habits, their foraging habits. If we know where the whales are in real time, then we can use technology to alert vessels that are in the area to slow down to prevent vessel strikes.
Richard McLanaghan: The work that we are doing is focused on trying to develop techniques for better informing where the whales are at any given time, so mitigation measures can be put in place.
One of the techniques that we’re trialing this year is using a thermal camera, which will be mounted high up on our mast. We’ll use that initially during daylight hours to see how easy it is to spot the whales, to use that as a means to track them. And then, hopefully, we’ll be able to trial it at nighttime as well.
Thermal cameras might be useful on commercial ships for looking ahead of the path of the ship to maybe spot whales in advance, because the blow compared to the background is usually quite warm. So, hopefully we’ll get some kind of signature on that. It might be part of the answer to help inform avoidance techniques in the future.
Greg: IFAW is an organization that’s focused on solutions. Song of the Whale is a perfect example. Commissioning this vessel to do this level of research is remarkable. There’s no doubt that we can change mariner behavior to coexist with marine mammals.
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