Chile Uses High-tech Buoys to Protect Migrating Whales

Posted by Bruno Monteiro


(Photo: Fundacion MERI)

(Photo: Fundacion MERI)

A smart buoy that can “hear” the ocean and monitor climate change is part of a new effort to help endangered whales avoid ship collisions 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 Chile’s capital, in early October and is the first of many planned by the Blue Boat Initiative, a project designed to protect whales and monitor marine ecosystems.

The area is teeming with marine life and has a large number of blue whales as well as Sei and Southern right whales during the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere.

“This is the beginning of a longer road,” said Sonia Espanol, director of the Blue Boat Initiative, adding 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 the whales from Antarctica to the equator.”

The area, brimming with fjords and islands, deals with a large volume of marine traffic responsible for sound pollution and a threat to sea mammals that depend on sound for navigation and hunting.

The buoy works by using software called Listening to the Deep Ocean Environment (LIDO), which monitors sounds and uses artificial intelligence to identify sea 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 is expected to help guide public policy.

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