North Atlantic right whales have been classified as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970. With fewer than 356 remaining, it’s essential to act now to prevent the population from decreasing further. That means addressing the two leading causes of right whale mortality: collision with vessels and entanglements with fishing gear.
As part of the effort to protecting the right whales from extinction, the federal government of Canada is taking various protective measures, including closing fisheries, limiting vessel speeds and launching the Smart Whales initiative. The Smart Whales initiative aims to help protect the North Atlantic right whales through innovative technology that detects and monitors their presence and activity in Canadian waters and to forecast their travels, thereby reducing their risk of collision and entanglement. The project intends to enable North Atlantic right whales to coexist with vessels vital to Canada’s economic health in a secure habitat.
As part of the smartWhales initiative, WSP will manage and analyze the Earth Observation Data, which is the most reliable data source for near real-time data for large areas of the sea. They’re the best source of information for creating an accurate model of right whale movements and essential for configuring, validating and feeding modelling tools in real-time. WSP will use the data to observe the North Atlantic right whales’ movement and use that as reference data for hydrodynamic modelling, risk modelling and ship modelling.
Additionally, WSP will, alongside a team of experts from Dalhousie University, the Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski (ISMER), DHI Water & Environment and the Canadian Whale Institute, focus on developing a predictive modelling system to create a wide range of retrospective models to predict the presence, movement and behaviour of right whales. Subsequently, the modelling tools will be integrated into a system that will provide near real-time information on the predicted presence of right whales and their risk of encountering a vessel.
Research and development projects resulting from this initiative will provide data that could mitigate the risk of collision between whales and ships and detect when cetaceans are endangered due to other human-made threats. Therefore, the study will benefit the entire research community by encouraging related research in the fields of Earth Observation Data science and ecology modelling.
Protecting the Whales
Canadian Space Agency using satellite data to track endangered right whales
Data from space could help protect the endangered North Atlantic right whale