A smart buoy that can ‘hear’ the ocean and monitor climate change is part of a new effort to help endangered whales avoid collisions with ships on their journey from Antarctica to the equator .
The buoy was installed in the Gulf of Corcovado, some 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) south of the Chilean capital, in early October and is the first in a long series planned by the Blue Boat Initiative, a project designed to protect whales and monitor marine ecosystems. The area teems with marine life and has large numbers of blue whales as well as sei and southern right whales during the southern hemisphere summer season.
“It’s the start of a longer route,” said Sonia Espanol, director of Blue Boat Initiative, adding that their hope is to cover the gulf with at least six buoys. “From there, there are no limits, the idea is to be able to cover the entire migratory route of whales from Antarctica to the equator.”
The area, full of fjords and islands, faces a high volume of maritime traffic responsible for noise pollution and a threat to marine mammals that depend on sound for navigation and hunting. The buoy operates using software called Listening to the Deep Ocean Environment (LIDO), which monitors sounds and uses artificial intelligence to identify marine mammals, their type and location in real time. It then alerts nearby vessels so they can reduce noise and avoid collisions.
The device also contains sensors for water temperature, oxygen levels and more to monitor ocean health and the impact of climate change, which should help guide public policy.
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