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CMA CGM aims to protect endangered whale species via monitoring buoys

In an effort to save endangered whales, CMA CGM is partnering with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to assemble and deploy two acoustic monitoring buoys off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, and Savannah, Georgia, this year. 

The goal of the project is to get better monitoring data for whales, especially North Atlantic right whales, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Only about 336 of these great whales remain, according to a Thursday release.

Ocean vessels are a major threat to whales, as collisions are often fatal and go unnoticed. In near real time, the buoys will be able to transmit data to ship captains, giving them the opportunity to slow down their vessels or change course if they are near whales.

Read: How to fight the ‘silent massacre’ of whale-ship collisions

“As the nation’s top ocean freight carrier, we’re honored to help put these protections in place and to lead the industry in a quest to prevent the extinction of the North Atlantic right whale, which is one of America’s most critically endangered species,” Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM America and American President Lines, said in a statement.

The locations were chosen because “ports are among the busiest in the U.S., which often puts ships directly in the path of migrating whales,” the release said. The buoys are meant to “fill a critical gap” in whale monitoring on the East Coast.

Two new acoustic monitoring buoys will be deployed off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia and Savannah, Georgia to help fill critical monitoring gaps along the U.S. East Coast, a busy migration route for North Atlantic right whales. (Photo: Natalie Renier/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The monitoring buoys are not calibrated to only detect right whales, but the specific sounds whales make and geographic regions during different seasons can help determine which types of whales are nearby. CMA CGM did not say how many whales it expects this technology to save, but the data it provides will be an important step in protecting them.

“Adding these locations to our network of acoustic buoys is pivotal to providing more complete monitoring of the East Coast of the U.S. Vessel strikes are a major threat to large whales, so bringing awareness of the whales’ presence and increasing protection for them, particularly for the North Atlantic right whale, is incredibly important,” Mark Baumgartner, project principal investigator and WHOI marine ecologist, said in the release.

Data collected from the buoys will be used as one part of a multifaceted approach to protect endangered species such as North Atlantic right whales.

Ed Aldridge and Peter de Menocal with the CMA CGM branded DMON buoy. (Photo: Jayne Doucett/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

As part of the partnership, CMA CGM and WHOI plan to develop an industry consortium focused on reducing risks to right whales from vessels and supporting the continued operation of the WHOI-developed digital acoustic monitoring buoys.

Read: CMA CGM to halt overseas transport of plastic waste

CMA CGM is already committed to the “Green Flag” speed-reduction program on the West Coast. The company strives to lower its vessel speeds when going through higher-risk areas, reducing the risk of a whale-ship collision. This includes breeding grounds on the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada, where vessels reduce their speed to a maximum of 10 knots.

CMA CGM joined the Life-Paiquo consortium to develop and test different noise-reducing equipment to lower the impact of maritime traffic and noise on marine life. The company is working with other industry partners on projects to detect whales and floating objects at sea.

“At CMA CGM, we are dedicated to being stewards of the sea and finding better ways to do business. The overall mission of this project is to advance research-driven, technological solutions for the shipping industry to responsibly share the ocean with marine mammals and protect endangered species,” Aldridge said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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