Whale detection and avoidance initiative - Oceans Protection Plan

Backgrounder

March 2018

The Government of Canada continues to mitigate the impact of shipping and human activities on our marine environments and the marine mammals that inhabit our waters.  Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Government of Canada is investing in various strategies to protect whales.

In response to requests from mariners and other stakeholders for ways to better protect whales, DFO researchers will work with partners to develop and test various technologies able to detect the presence of whales in near-real time.

Using a range of techniques such as underwater microphones, coupled with networks that track whale sightings, the goal is to capture near-real-time information on whales in specific areas and on whale location. This information will help alert mariners of the presence of whales in the area in order to reduce the risk of collisions.  

The department recently hosted a meeting of Canadian and international experts to discuss and assess various technologies that could be used to detect and track whales in Canadian waters. The group reviewed passive acoustics and active acoustics, as well as thermal imagery, satellite imagery, and tags.

A whale detection pilot project is currently underway in Active Pass, Southern BC. This trial ‘Whale Tracking Network’ includes approximately 25 hydrophones in the Salish Sea and is designed to detect the presence and location of Southern Resident Killer Whales by way of their vocal sounds.

DFO will also be working with partners on the East Coast to develop and test whale detection technologies to protect the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

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