• MLWA 7

How protecting orcas starts with tech

- Olympia, WA

While protecting Southern Resident orcas will require a variety of tools and approaches, Washington State Ferries plans to contribute by bringing tech out on the water.

One of the newest tools is an online system through WSF that exchanges real-time information about whales in the Salish Sea.

Kevin Bartoy, environmental stewardship and sustainability program manager at WSF, said the agency can feed data from a public whale sighting app (Whale Report App) into the Whale Report Alert System. This alert and reporting system will give commercial mariners alerts about a whale’s location in real time. Then, marine operators can either minimize the vessel’s noise or avoid collision with marine mammals by changing course.

“It’s something that will become more robust over time as we get more of that commercial maritime sector reporting in,” Bartoy said. “The more information we have coming in that’s verified, the better situational awareness we have on the water. We can be a leader that other people will follow.”

The Whale Report Alert System is only available to commercial mariners. The operation center sends the vessel alerts and the captain can make a decision from there.

“We thought, ‘We can do something quick and more immediate for the whales — let’s use this alert system. This is a way to more actively manage our noise as we move forward to create quieter vessels.”

-Kevin Bartoy