Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Graphical depiction of the Whale Safe system

The biologically rich waters along the West Coast are prime feeding grounds for baleen whales, especially during summer. These waters also support busy international shipping routes to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in southern California, and Oakland, Richmond, Benicia, Redwood City, and San Francisco off central California. The Benioff Ocean Science Laboratory at UC Santa Barbara, along with a consortium of research and conservation institutions including MMI, have recently launched Whale Safe for the San Francisco Bay region. Whale Safe is a technology-based mapping and analysis tool designed to prevent fatal ship collisions with whales. Whale Safe was originally designed for the Santa Barbara Channel region off southern California, where it has been aiding the shipping industry and managers make informed decisions for several years. The expansion to the San Francisco region means that shipping companies there can now also help mitigate the problem by implementing local vessel speed reductions whenever the Whale Safe system alerts of the presence of whales in the area. One of the components of Whale Safe used to assess whale presence is a blue whale model that predicts habitat suitability based on current oceanographic conditions. The model was developed in collaboration with Daniel Palacios, Ladd Irvine, and Bruce Mate, and was built using MMI’s large blue whale tracking dataset.

Read the full University of California press release here: "Setting up a 'school zone' for whales".