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BioConsult SH launches SPACEWHALE

Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, BioConsult SH follows a cutting-edge approach to automatically detect marine megafauna, especially whales, by analysing Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images: SPACEWHALE.

Satellite images are now available at very high resolutions of < 50 cm which allows detecting whales and other marine megafauna. The challenge in using these images is the tremendous effort needed to survey vast marine areas where the densities of such animals are very low. To overcome this problem, a combination of machine learning and vision tools will be applied to perform automatic detection of marine megafauna. The project will build on extensive experience on automatic object detection and classification developed by BioConsult SH and its sister company HiDef Aerial Surveying and makes use of their unique databases of digital aerial video footage. The new method will greatly enhance the abilities to survey whales at large scales and thus opens new opportunities for population studies.

A wide range of people interested in whales can be provided with consistent large-scale surveys and population assessments of marine megafauna. The project intends to especially enhance the conservation of endangered species. Research institutes, governmental agencies for nature conservation, fisheries authorities and NGOs engaged in the protection of marine wildlife as well as oil & gas companies performing seismic surveys and whale watching companies will benefit from these large-scale surveys.

Common minke whale