Washington State Ferries has implemented a whale alert app and web-based system this week to provide ferry captains more accurate and updated location information for southern resident orcas and other whales throughout Puget Sound.
Access to Ocean Wise’s Whale Report Alert System is only granted to commercial maritime operators such as ferries, ships, and tugs. It is not available for public use or for whale watch operators. The WRAS relies on real-time sightings, reported by members of the public via Ocean Wise’s WhaleReport smartphone application, to inform commercial mariners of whale presence.
The system is expected to provide ferry captains and other commercial mariners with better information about large marine mammal locations in the vicinity of their vessels so they can make decisions to change course or reduce speed to avoid disturbing or colliding with them, according to WSF. Each alert also supplies other pertinent details such as the species observed, the direction of whale travel, the time of the report and the number of whales in the group.
“Because we operate our 22 ferries on Puget Sound and manage 20 terminals on its shores, we have an obligation to ensure WSF is doing everything we can to protect our environment, including marine life,” said WSF Assistant Secretary Amy Scarton.
WRAS was developed by Ocean Wise, a conservation program from Vancouver, B.C., focused on sustainable seafood issues, with funding from the Canadian Government, the Port of Prince Rupert, and the Port of Vancouver’s Enhancing Cetacean Habitat and Observation Program.
WSF has been a member of the ECHO program’s Advisory Working Group since 2015 and helped in beta testing of WRAS.