Protecting whales from vessel collisions

The Whale Detection Initiative will help protect whales in Canada's waters as part of the Oceans Protection Plan. This initiative will provide $9.1 million over 5 years to develop and test technologies to detect whales in near-real time on both the west and east coasts. Detection will help prevent vessel collisions with whales and protect marine mammals.


Researchers will develop and test various acoustic and imaging technologies, such as underwater microphones able to detect the presence of whales in near-real time. The ability to capture up-to-date information on whale presence could help alert mariners of the presence of whales in a particular area, reducing the risk of collisions.

Expected outcomes

Funding will go toward projects that will:

  • develop and test whale detection technologies capable of providing up-to-date information on the presence of whales
  • reduce the threat of vessel collisions with whales on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts


Oceans Protection Plan: Whale Detection and Avoidance Initiative
Description Timeframe Investment

Title: North Atlantic Right Whale Survey in Jacques Cartier Passage

Project partner: Mingan Island Cetacean Study (Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, QC)

Project summary: This two-year project will support North Atlantic Right Whale vessel-based surveys from June to September 2018 and 2019 in the Jacques Cartier Passage, northwest of Anticosti Island, Quebec. Information on sightings, including photos, date, time, position and number of whales observed, will be uploaded on a daily basis onto WhaleMap. This interactive mapping tool, developed by Dalhousie University, displays recent known locations of North Atlantic Right Whales as they travel in Canadian waters.

2018 – 20 $91,367

Title: Utilizing sighting reports from a network of citizen scientists to reduce vessel disturbance and strike risk to Southern Resident Killer Whales and other cetaceans

Project partner: Ocean Wise Conservation Association (Vancouver, BC)

Project summary: This one-year project will support the expansion of the British Columbia Cetacean Sightings Network and the continued development and testing of their Whale Report Alert System, an online application that alerts specific groups, such as large commercial vessel operators, of the presence of whales in their vicinity. This awareness could help better enable vessels to undertake voluntary adaptive mitigation measures, such as slowing down or altering course, to reduce the risk of collision and disturbance.

2019 – 20 $229,885

Title: Developing a real-time forecasting system for Southern Resident Killer Whales

Project partner: Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC)

Project summary: This three-year project will support the development of a real-time Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) movement forecast tool for ship alerting purposes. The project will use a marine animal movement model along with real-time and archival SRKW sightings and acoustic detections to provide an estimate of current SRKW pod locations and help predict their direction of movement.

2019 – 22 $617,435

Title: Development of vessel-based infra-red camera whale detection system for ship-strike mitigation

Project partner: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Woods Hole, Massachusetts)

Project summary: This one-year project will support the development of a transportable and cost-effective vessel-based infrared camera whale detection system that could detect whale blows in near-real time, including those of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

2019 – 20 $196,589

Title: Evaluation of the use of thermal imaging for whale detection in Canadian waters to study killer whale presence

Project partner: University of Erlangen–Nuremberg (Germany)

Project summary: This two year project will support the testing of two land-based infrared camera whale detection systems at Sturdies Bay ferry terminal in British Columbia. This project will test the feasibility of such systems to detect the presence of whales in BC waters in near-real time, including the Southern Resident Killer Whale.

2018 – 2020 $169,124

Related links


Oceans Protection Plan

Oceans Protection Plan

Canada has the world's longest coastline, and our water is one of our most important resource.

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