SFU is launching a new project to better protect killer whales (Black Press file)

SFU is launching a new project to better protect killer whales (Black Press file)

Researchers to use artificial intelligence to save endangered whales in B.C.

Partnering with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the program is set to launch in 2022

An artificial intelligence computer will eventually be able to detect specific whale sounds to protect them from fatal ship strikes.

The Simon Fraser University project was granted approximately $57,000 by Fisheries and Oceans Canada under the Oceans Protection Plan and is expected to launch in 2022, according to a recent news release.

The system will monitor sounds received from a network of hydrophones 24 hours a day.

Once the computer has each acoustic signature added, it will be able to recognize which call belongs to each type of cetacean. The program will be able to send real time alerts to vessels, notifying them to slow down or change course when whales are in the area.

Orcas, or killer whales, are divided into four distinct populations: the salmon-eating southern and northern residents, and the transients and offshore whales. They are further categorized into specific whale families called pods. Each pod has its own dialect that varies from each group of cetaceans.

“Southern resident killer whales are an endangered species and people are very fond of these animals,” said Ruth Joy, lead researcher. “They want to see that these marine mammals are protected and that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that the Salish Sea is a good home for them.”


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Southern Resident Killer Whales