Smart Buoys to Protect Whales from Ship Collisions

The buoys include a system of hydrophones, oceanographic sensors and transmitters.

Whales are some of the largest mammals on earth and they can likely take care of themselves just fine in many oceanic circumstances. But even the biggest whale doesn’t stand much of a chance against the biggest boats, so now there’s technology to help ensure fewer whales are killed in ship collisions.

According to Reuters, the Blue Boat Initiative has begun installing a network of smart buoys along the western coast of South America. The buoys use software that listens to the sounds of the ocean and, with some help from artificial intelligence, picks out animal noises. Those noises are then used to provide ships with the animal type and exact location.

Blue Boat said its connected buoys rely on a system of hydrophones, oceanographic sensors and transmitters to alert ships to whale activity, which is heavy to the south of Chile. The Initiative said the combination of fjords and sub-Antarctic currents make the area a popular feeding and breeding ground for whales.

By focusing efforts in that region, the Initiative can hopefully help reduce the number of whales killed each year, which has become a massive problem. As Engadget points out, the World Sustainability Organization estimates 18,000 to 25,000 whales are killed in ship collisions each year.

Besides being extremely majestic, whales also do a lot of good for their ecosystems. The Initiative said that whales give off large amounts of nutrients that feed microscopic life, which in turn produce a large percentage of our planet’s oxygen and serve as food for bigger fish. And, as plans accelerate for large-scale CO2 removal operations, it’s worth noting that whales already take a lot of it out of the atmosphere. According to Blue Boat, a whale can put away 33 tons of CO2 over its lifetime, 1500 times what a tree can handle.

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