WSP is leading one of the five teams that is working on smartWhales, a federal initiative that explores how satellite data could be used, in conjunction with other information, to help monitor and detect the presence of North Atlantic right whales and predict their movement. The initiative is led by the Canadian Space Agency, in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada., The research and development projects from this initiative will provide information that could be useful to help mitigate collisions between whales and boats and identify when whales may be in danger from additional human threats.
The work is being broken down into two distinct categories: detection and monitoring and prediction and modelling. The first is being led by three teams, each of which is charged with the development of a system that could help detect or monitor North Atlantic right whales using high-resolution satellite imagery. The second, being led by two teams, involves using the detection and monitoring information to create systems that could help predict and model the movement of the whales.
Using Data from Space
Satellite imagery creates Earth Observation Data, recognized as the most reliable source for near real-time data over large marine areas. The data is imperative to set up, validate and provide real-time input for the modelling tools. The WSP team will manage and analyze this data to observe current North Atlantic right whale movements as a baseline for hydrodynamic modelling, risk modelling, and vessel modelling to name a few. The Earth Observation Data provides the best information resource to provide accurate modelling of North Atlantic right whale movements.
It is the predictive modelling of North Atlantic right whale movements that is the focus of the work being led by WSP. In collaboration with a expert team from DHI Water and Environment, the Canadian Whale Institute, Dalhousie University, and the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski (ISMER), a system will be built using data collection and management for the development of a range of hindcast models that will predict the presence of North Atlantic right whales, their movement and behaviour. The modelling tools will then be integrated into a system that will provide near real-time forecasted output on the presence of North Atlantic right whales and any potential risk of vessel encounters.
Keeping Whales Safe
The goal of the research and development project is to ensure that North Atlantic right whales have a safe habitat, co-existing with marine travel and shipping in Canadian waterways. The WSP collaboration, using Earth Observation data as the foundation for near real-time data, will be able to provide the best possible information, which could inform management decisions on how to mitigate the risk of vessel traffic on this important marine population.
For more information on WSP’s involvement in the smartWhales project, please contact Patrick Lafrance, National Vice-President – Ecology and Environmental impact assessment.