Whale Habitat and Listening Experiment (WHaLE)

Project Summary: To equip AUVs with acoustic technologies, sample whale calls & habitat;  explore;  communicate real-time data to public, conservation teams, shipping fleet; integrate results, technology into policy, social initiatives to advance whale, and canadian cultural conservation. The WHaLE project is a collaboration between teams on the east and west coasts of Canada

West coast objectives:

Particularly looking at the north coast and western Vancouver Island regions, our first goal is to use our existing connections to people and resource planning initiatives to introduce the project objectives and tools to gain some support.  At the same time we will be undertaking some social science work around planning initiatives to discuss conflicts, discover where whale conservation fits and gain support. 

The gliders will be used in association with a bottom-moored PAM array to allow monitoring of whales in relation to vessel traffic, using land-based and satellite Automatic Information System, AIS. This will:

Improve our knowledge of whale and food dynamics to identify Critical Habitats, and obtaining baseline data in preparation for ongoing distributional shifts in whales and/or their habitat;

Quantify the risk of vessel strikes and acoustic masking by vessels to whales in known and newly identified habitats;

Transmit whale location information in near real-time to regional vessel traffic, and;

Through working with First Nations groups and other stakeholders, including NGOs and government, we will also perform public outreach through collaboration and gain insight for policy development. 

 

East coast objectives:

To survey known and suspected right whale habitats with gliders equipped with DMONs and an echosounder and an array of supporting bottom listening pods to collect information about whales in relation to their habitat;

To use the gliders and their real-time capacity to support existing right whale visual monitoring surveys inside and around the 2 known critical habitats, particularly to help respond to abandonments to those habitats;

To develop our near real-time communication capacity using AtoN and AIS network, and develop our capacity for sending glider-DMON data to the public and vessels, and;

To work with the fleet and various involved societies to quantify the usage and utility of the Whale Alert App to Canadians and promote real-time data communication as a new tool to our end-users.

 

This work is funded through Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) (http://meopar.ca/) See 'News' for our progress.