A web-based whale alert app has been put into use by Washington State Ferries (WSF) to provide ferry captains with more accurate information about the location of Southern resident killer whales (orcas) and other whales throughout Puget Sound. The Whale Report Alert System (WRAS) was developed by Ocean Wise, a Green Marine supporter. It relies on real-time sightings reported by members of the public via Ocean Wise’s Whale Report smartphone application. The system is expected to provide ferry captains and other commercial mariners with better information about the location of large marine mammal in the vicinity of their vessels so they can make decisions in changing course or reducing speed to avoid disturbing or colliding with the animals.
Each alert further supplies other pertinent details such as the time of the report, the species observed, the direction of whale travel, and the number of whales in the group. The desktop interface permits watch standers at WSF’s operations centres to monitor the location of whale sightings relative to fleet vessel positions and relay whale presence information to captains as required.
Ocean Wise developed WRAS with funding from the Government of Canada, the Port of Prince Rupert, and the Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation (ECHO) program at the Port of Vancouver. WSF has been a member of the ECHO program’s advisory working group since 2015 and helped with the beta testing of WRAS.