Whale Songs to Warn Mariners of Their Presence

A system of buoys that will warn boats of the presence of whales has been put in place along a part of the east coast of the USA. The network of buoys listen for sounds that whales make and then the network will relay messages to boaters in the area to stay clear of the undersea creatures.

They have developed a cutting-edge underwater listening system to protect the creatures from their number one killer: ships. The Massachusetts Bay network can track right whales by their signature call – and in as little as 20 minutes warn mariners to slow if they’re too close.

The devices are also giving scientists unprecedented insight into how the creatures change behavior to respond to the cacophony of man-made noises in the bay.

“We need to listen to these whales” to save them, said Christopher W. Clark, director of Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program, which developed the technology with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Clarks said an increasing number of pipelines, cruise ships, tankers, and construction projects are drowning out the whales’ soft calls, making it difficult for them to connect. Clark has evidence that the whales simply don’t “whoop” when the bay gets too noisy.

“In the world of right whales, we know it’s a noisy place to live,” Clark said in an e-mail. “Underwater [is] not much different than living on the tarmac at Logan.”

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