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Spacewhale II – Whales in the Bay of Biscay

The Bay of Biscay off the coasts of France and Spain is the site of a further study of BioConsult SH's Spacewhale project. In this project – funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) – we train an algorithm to detect large whales in very high-resolution satellite imagery using artificial intelligence and deep-learning techniques.

Fieldwork is now successfully completed:

Cuvier's beaked whale (Click the image to enlarge.)

In a comparison of methods, an area of 4,000 km² was covered by HiDef aerial transect surveys recording digital video footage of the sea surface using a high-resolution camera system. WorldView 3 satellite imagery of the same area was taken almost simultaneously.

The Bay of Biscay is one of the European marine areas hosting the largest number of different whale species. Due to the partly steeply descending seafloor, deep diving species as for example the Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) will occur close to the coast. The investigated area includes a submarine canyon with up to 4,700 m deep valleys.

We were able to find fin whales and several pods of dolphins in the HiDef video footage. In a next step, the satellite imagery will be evaluated.

Fin whale (Click the image to enlarge.)

The Spacewhale project aims to develop a method to support surveys and monitoring of large whales using satellite imagery and image recognition. Please visit our project page and the pages of the European Space Agency (ESA) for further information about the project.