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Preventing Ship-Whale Collisions

Preventing Ship-Whale Collisions

February 18, 2011

In an effort to avert lethal collisions between ships and endangered right whales, 10 buoy systems (purple dots) were installed in the Boston Harbor shipping lanes, beginning in 2007. Each has an underwater listening device, or hydrophone, to detect whale calls within a 5-mile radius (outer circles). The systems, developed by WHOI and Cornell University researchers, have a two-tiered mooring line: the top part can stretch 2½ times its length without breaking in stormy seas; the bottom part stays still enough for the hydrophones to work. Data are relayed in real time, and if whales are detected, ships are alerted to slow down and watch for whales. The system was funded by Excelerate Energy, which built a deepwater port off Boston for liquefied natural gas. Three similar systems monitor whales in Cape Cod Bay.(Illustration by Jim Canavan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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