Posted by: The ocean update | April 13, 2015

Thermal imaging may save Hauraki Gulf whales (New Zealand)

A study has found thermal imaging technology will allow ships to spot whales by their body heat. Martin Stanley.

A study has found thermal imaging technology will allow ships to spot whales by their body heat. Martin Stanley.

Monday, April 13th, 2015 (Jack Van Beynen). A scientific study has shown thermal imaging technology could prevent ships hitting whales in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

The research, led by Martin Stanley of Ocean Life Survey, proved that the heat put out by Bryde’s whales could be used to spot them at distances that would allow commercial vessels to avoid collisions.

“We can detect the whales by the heat of their own bodies and breath,” Stanley said.

“Using thermal imaging technology we can ‘see’ the whales in real time, day or night.”

The thermal imaging cameras capture footage of the sea and highlight in orange the warm forms of surfacing whales.

Ship-strike is the greatest known cause of death for Bryde’s whales in the Hauraki Gulf. Between 2006 and 2014, 16 were killed by commercial shipping.

Ports of Auckland (POA), which supported the study, has tried to reduce ship-strike by slowing ship speeds in the area by an average 15 per cent.

POA chief executive Tony Gibson said that although this had been effective, slowing ships came at a “significant cost” for importers and exporters.

“If we can find a way for ships to spot and avoid whales, this could be of significant benefit to the whales as well as importers and exporters,” he said.

Stanley said the next step in the research was to develop a practical application for the technology which could be used by the international shipping industry and port authorities.

“The use and development of this technology could have a significant positive impact on the conservation of large whale species, many of which are threatened or endangered,” he said.

The Hauraki Gulf is a full-year home for an estimated 46 Bryde’s whales, with up to 159 others living there at various times of the year.

It is also visited by other whale species, which are all vulnerable to ship-strike.

Ed Sibylline : there is nothing new, we proposed it in 2008 : infra-red optronic captor (used in some harbors, by Navy in the safety of boats, etc…), in a work to avoid vessel collisions. But without the financial, we couldn’t go any further… It’s why it’s really important to support NGOs which work really on the field, not those who cry out the loudest…




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