SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Forty miles off the coast of Savannah, where you can barely see any land, is home to the North Atlantic Right Whale and a new tool to track the endangered species.
Only about 350 Right Whales remain in the ocean, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). A new acoustic buoy through a partnership with WHOI and shipping company CMA CGM uses sensors to pick up the whale’s sounds underwater.
“This buoy is designed to detect the presence of the North Atlantic Right Whale and help prevent ship interactions with the whales as they’re migrating to and from Savannah,” said Heather Wood, director of sustainability in North America for CMA CGM.
Called the CMA CGM Sea Guard Savannah, the buoy will transmit data to scientists in Massachusetts where scientists keep count of the critically-endangered species and alert steamship lines to where they are.
“There was an improvement in the population and it peaked at about 500 and now it’s declined again,” Wood said. “So Woods Hole is hoping to use this data as well as data from other buoys on the coast to try to see if we can figure out what’s happening with the whale and why we’ve had that peak and now another decline.”
Right Whales are already protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act but still face serious survival threats.
With the number of ships passing through the Port of Savannah growing, Wood said it’s critical for shipping companies to preserve and protect marine life.
“For us, we’re out there using the oceans, we’re sailing the oceans and we really just want to be able to give back to the resource that helps us sustain our business every day,” she said. “It’s acting for planet to help protect the whales, acting for fair trade to help preserve the endangered species and then also acting for people because there’s an interaction obviously with our mariners and our vessels.”
Another acoustic buoy was installed in Norfolk, Virginia. Wood said the addition of these two will give scientists more data from the southern Atlantic, where they haven’t had as much before.