Unfortunately, there’s one thing in the sea that’s bigger than whales: boats. And every once a while, a boat strikes a whale, causing serious injury or even death. To stop such tragedies from happening any longer, Washington State Ferries implemented a whale report alert system (WRAS) app that notifies ferry captains of the whereabouts of orcas and other cetaceans in Puget Sound to help prevent collisions.
The app, created by Ocean Wise Research in Vancouver, British Columbia, is only for use by commercial maritime operations, including ships, ferries, and tugboats. But the app relies on members of the public reporting real-time whale sightings. Once a trusted observer spots a whale, dolphin or porpoise, they submit the siting to the app. The siting is verified, then the app alerts commercial mariners on the water within 10 miles of the siting.
Armed with this information, ferry captains will be able to make better decisions about their courses and speed to avoid collisions with marine animals. Mariners can also leave feedback in the app, reporting any mitigation actions they took.
The tool isn’t exactly perfect, as it relies on whale sightings and doesn’t give a real-time location of the whales, but for now, it’s at least one-way ship operators can avoid colliding with whales.