West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries, in partnership with PRBO Conservation Science, initiated in April testing of the “Whale Aware” program, a voluntary sighting network for marine mammals. Michael Carver, Cordell Bank NMS, in collaboration with Dr. Jaime Jahncke, California Current Group Director for PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO), with financial support from the Cordell Marine Sanctuary Foundation, developed a voluntary sightings program known as Whale Aware for the region adjacent to the entrance to SF Bay.
The Whale Aware program is a new system for gathering near “real time” data on whale distribution and abundance. To help establish a baseline of high quality data for this effort, PRBO biologists are conducting daily cetacean surveys from the lighthouse on the Farallon Islands. Data will be integrated into a regional database that also contains crowd sourced data from the maritime community, data from the Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies (ACCESS), and dedicated over-flights in partnership with the United States Coast Guard (USCG). With this data, NOAA and partners hope to work with the USCG Vessel Traffic Service to decrease the co-occurrence of ships and whales.
In 2010 several endangered whales were killed by ship strike in the region. With over 7,000 commercial ship transits through the region, shipping activity can impact a range of sanctuary wildlife. Multiple agencies, scientists, environmental organizations, and the shipping industry worked together to form consensus recommendations to address the issue of ship strikes in the central California Sanctuaries. Initiating a Voluntary sighting network that would inform a potential Dynamic Management Area was one of the recommendations. For more information, contact: Michael.Carver@noaa.gov