New High-Tech Buoys Can Help Migrating Whales Avoid Ship Collisions – Tech21K

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(Photo: Venti Views/Unsplash)
As far as most of us are concerned, buoys are just floating point markers, responsible for nothing more than bobbing up and down as currents surge underneath. But some are far more than that. In fact, a new “smart buoy” in Chile’s Gulf of Corcovado helps prevent whales and other sea life from colliding with ships while also monitoring climate change.

The buoy is owned by The Blue BOAT (Buoy Oceanographic Alert Technology) Initiative, a project sponsored by the Chilean Ministry of the Environment. While the project’s main goal is to protect migrating whales, it also aims to monitor oceans for signs of climate change. These insights help inform marine ecosystem services and investigations into whales’ role in the capture of carbon dioxide.

The Blue BOAT Initiative’s smart buoys use software called Listening to the Deep Ocean (LIDO) to monitor sounds for marine passersby. When an animal is detected, LIDO uses artificial intelligence to identify the animal’s type and exact location before sending a signal to an early warning station on land. The station then alerts nearby vessels to the animal’s presence. This helps vessel operators avoid vessel strikes, an all-too-common phenomenon that often occurs because animals aren’t visible from the surface (or because they become visible a bit too late).

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(Image: The Blue BOAT Initiative)

Though vessel strikes affect a wide range of large marine animals, The Blue BOAT Initiative is most focused on protecting blue whales, southern right whales, humpback whales, and sei whales. —which also happens to be frequented by large maritime vessels. Not only do these vessels run the risk of colliding with whales, but they also produce noise that can cause disorientation, hearing damage, and interruptions in communication, migration, and feeding. with Chile’s 2018 maritime speed limit of 10 knots during the day and 8 knots at night, The Blue BOAT Initiative’s smart buoys could help reduce the impact vessels have on whales’ daily lives.

So far, the project has installed a single smart buoy in the gulf. The Blue BOAT Initiative hopes to expand coverage with at least five more buoys, which would help cover several whale species’ migratory routes from Antarctica to the equator. the buoys’ water temperature and oxygen level sensors will help the project monitor ocean health during a worsening climate crisis.

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