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Still seeking Moby Dick: Spotting whales from space

Our new service, “SPACEWHALE” (www.spacewhales.de), developed by BioConsult SH and HiDef Aerial Surveying Ltd, detects whales from space by combining modern space technology and artificial intelligence.

With SPACEWHALE, we can quickly and accurately scan large areas of the global ocean for large marine mammals. It enables surveys to be conducted at an unprecedented scale in a fraction of the time.

SPACEWHALE brings together modern space technology and artificial intelligence: We use a specially developed algorithm that automatically detects whales on satellite images and to quantify their population and distribution on the high seas. The method was developed by scientists from BioConsult SH in collaboration with English and American scientists. Supported by funding from the European Space Agency (ESA) under the Space Solutions Programme.

In contrast to previous whale monitoring by ship or aircraft, satellite images cover the global ocean surface. SPACEWHALE does not only detect whales but also other large marine animals. Many questions that previously required individual biological studies can now be answered with just a few clicks. Which areas are especially used by marine mammals? When do whales pass through a certain region during their migration? With the answers to these and other questions, solutions can be found that combine species protection on the one hand and human use of the seas on the other. For example, periods can be determined in which oil and gas or offshore wind farm activities cause the least disturbance to wildlife.

“SPACEWHALE makes a significant contribution to marine conservation; artificial intelligence combined with satellite images offers completely new opportunities,” says project manager Caroline Höschle from BioConsult SH. "The application of SPACEWHALE can help identify critical habitats of whales and inform marine spatial planning and impact assessments of offshore developments."

Further information can be found on the service website www.spacewhales.de.

Fin whale detected from the SPACEWHALE algorithm (photo: BioConsult SH)


Contact persons:


Caroline Höschle
Tel: +49 (0) 48 41 77937 18



Julika Voß
Tel: +49 (0) 48 41 77937 94


E-mail:


UK contacts:


Dr Grant Humphries
Email:


Dr Kelly Macleod
Email: