Protecting Killer Whales from Marine Traffic

SFU researchers are developing a model that uses real-time acoustic data to protect 76 Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) at risk from collisions with marine vessels in shipping lanes in the Salish Sea. 

Ruth Joy, an SFU statistician who specializes in quantitative marine-mammal science, and colleague Dave Campbell have received funding from the Government of Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan to develop a practical tool that that will alert mariners when the SRKWs direction of travel is going to overlap with their ship’s path.

The SRKWs have protective status under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

Using underwater hydrophone nodes and acoustic bouys, Joy’s team will collect data that will monitor the whales’ presence.

“This acoustic data, combined with visual sightings from reliable sources, will provide real-time SRKW location data to inform the probabilistic model of marine animal movement,” Joy says. “When the SRKW location data becomes available from any of the real-time sources, we can use our model to predict where next the animals are likely to go.”

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