as you follow your location on nautical charts, Whale Alert helps identify the whales you see.
sharing sightings on Whale Alert helps rescuers, researchers, and mariners reduce deadly vessel strikes.
whales face constant human threats - with Whale Alert, the power to save them is in your hands.
Vessel strikes are a leading cause of whale mortality.
Large whales are vulnerable to collisions with all vessel types, sizes, and classes throughout the world's oceans. As our waterways become increasingly congested, high-traffic areas often intersect key marine mammal habitats. In California, gray whales are the most commonly reported vessel strikes. Along the Atlantic coast, it's the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Regardless of location, these strikes are often deadly for whales and cause significant damage to vessels.
Luckily, we know the solution - slow vessels down! Public whale sightings submitted via Whale Alert help establish speed zones, warnings, and other measures to reduce vessel speeds and reduce risks to whales.
Sperm whales in the Eastern Mediterranean are at a high risk of vessel strikes due to their critical habitats overlapping with shipping routes. 61% of stranded sperm whales along Greek coasts show signs of collision with a large vessel.
Whale Alert is a citizen science app where whale sightings are used to help prevent vessel strikes.
The Whale Alert app was launched in 2012 as a citizen science tool aimed at reducing the risk of vessel strikes. The app uses whale presence data including verified sightings, acoustic detections from buoys and gliders, and aerial surveys to display a user-friendly map based on nautical charts from country-specific government agencies.
Mariners, scientists, whale watchers, recreational boaters, and beachgoers alike can use their personal devices to easily share whale sightings with the Whale Alert team who then verify the information before posting it to the map in near-real time.
Public whale sightings submitted via Whale Alert help establish speed zones, warnings, and other measures to reduce vessel speeds and reduce risks to whales and mariners. Contributing to Whale Alert informs more accurate, evidence-driven administration of management areas to protect both whales and the livelihoods of people on the water.
The Whale Alert app empowers users to report whale sightings via an accessible interface. Users simply select the ‘Report Sighting’ button at the bottom of the screen to share a sighting at their current location, and can then upload images, select a species, and leave comments. Each sighting includes species information, number of observations, date of sighting, and source of the sighting.
Sightings are reviewed prior to their addition to the map; however, regular users of the app can become trusted observers, helping to streamline the review process. If you are interested in becoming a trusted observer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Critically, Whale Alert includes the ability to report live, dead, or distressed whales and facilitates phone calls (where required) to direct a report to regional management professionals with the user's location, enhancing the survivability of whales in distress.
Whale Alert makes it easy for the public, industry partners, and volunteer networks to log whale sightings in a simple-to-use interface. For those with less experience identifying whales, the app also provides an accessible whale identification guide.
Whale Alert automatically sends sightings to a central database which, in turn, is used by leading whale biologists and resource managers to better understand whale feeding and migration patterns and help establish dynamic management areas.
Whale Alert features several useful tools designed for mariners. Using built-in GPS technology commonly found in smartphones and tablets, the app "alerts" users with visual and auditory alerts when they enter active management zones. By doing so, Whale Alert makes it easier to navigate the evolving network of overlapping conservation zones and shipping lanes.
The current roster of zones is supplied by various national and state regulatory agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Transport Canada, US National Park Service, the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the Oregon Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Alert Zones: Management Areas
Seasonal Management Areas (SMAs) are areas where NOAA requires vessels 65 feet in length or greater to travel at speeds of less than or equal to 10 knots. SMAs along the eastern seaboard of the US will appear as orange-colored displays. If a boat enters an active SMA, a pop-up will appear stating that the ship should be traveling at the regulated speed.
Dynamic Management Areas (DMAs) use sightings of multiple whales to trigger temporary, voluntary speed restrictions or advisory notices. DMAs will appear during designated time periods. A pop-up alert providing explanatory details is displayed when entering DMAs. Voluntary Slow Zones are also displayed.
Voluntary Areas to be Avoided (ATBA) are areas in key right whale habitats in US and Canadian waters that have been established for ships weighing 300 gross tons or greater.
Recommended Routes (RR) are paths produced by NOAA (and shown in the app) to help guide vessels through densely populated whale areas.
Alert Zones: Marine Protected Areas
Whale Alert includes US and Canadian National Marine Sanctuaries and other Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) that heavily regulate fishing or other vessel activities. You can tap on an area to learn more about what is regulated.
The bright colors (blue and red) correspond to the type and level of protection for marine life. To learn more about this important resource visit our partner ProtectedSeas who maintains these maps.
Alert Zones: Boston Harbor
Whale Alert uses a state-of-the-art acoustic detection system to warn mariners of the presence of endangered North Atlantic right whales in shipping lanes leading through NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and to and from Boston, Massachusetts. The system is based on buoys that use hydrophones, special software, and satellite communication to identify right whale calls and automatically relay information to mariners.
Within the app, yellow whale tails indicate that a right whale has been detected within the past 24 hrs and that NOAA recommends a speed of 10 knots or less through the area during that time period.
Mandatory Ship Reporting
NOAA's Mandatory Ship Reporting (MSR) requires commercial ships of 300 gross tons and greater to report in when entering designated right whale reporting areas along the US Atlantic Coast. When a ship enters an MSR area, a pop-up display will provide information on reporting procedures and remind the mariner to report to the US Coast Guard.
Whale Alert greatly simplifies the process by including the MSR notice directly within the app.
Where available, PORTS® adds an important situational awareness feature that helps large vessel operators gain the upper hand over a host of environmental conditions affecting their ability to act on whale protection measures.
Who is Whale Alert for?
I'm a member of the public - why should I use Whale Alert?
I'm a mariner - why should I use Whale Alert?
Does Whale alert work with other sightings platforms?
Download the app and collect and submit observation data - every individual animal matters.
Donate to provide critical support for further development of technology, education, research, and outreach.
Become a trusted observer
If you are regularly on the water, contact us about becoming a trusted observer for Whale Alert.
Tell your community
Promote Whale Alert in your area using our outreach materials below.
Whale Alert Toolkit
Download the official Whale Alert toolkit, containing information about the app and resources to conduct outreach.
Feel free to use these materials on your boat, at a dock, in your school, or anywhere else you can imagine!
Whale Alert is part of a global effort to reduce ship strikes and other human activities that threaten marine mammals. Network partners provide various areas of expertise including technology, research, outreach, and education to increase the effectiveness of whale conservation and protection measures.
ifaw (International Fund for Animal Welfare) is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world.
We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. From the beginning of Whale Alert, ifaw has been its principal champion, financial supporter, and lead NGO for outreach and expansion.
Whale Alert's technology stack is developed and maintained by Conserve.IO, a leading provider of conservation mobile technology and data collection for conservation.
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
NOAA Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary was the originating sanctuary of the Whale Alert project. It uniquely leverages acoustic technology to help detect the presence of right whales in the Boston Channel and uses the Whale Alert platform to alert commercial shippers.
The sanctuary hosts some of the largest aggregations of endangered whales to occur along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Whale Alert - West Coast
This collaboration includes the five national marine sanctuaries of the West Coast, Conserve.IO, and Point Blue Conservation Science, in coordination with ifaw, with a mission to reduce the number of ship collisions with whales. West Coast national marine sanctuaries encompass 12,843 square miles of marine protected areas around the Channel Islands, Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, Monterey Bay, and Olympic Coast. Sanctuaries use a multi-pronged approach to reducing the risk of vessel strikes and have committed to activities in research and monitoring, policy and management collaborations, and education and outreach. To learn about new and continuing initiatives led by West Coast sanctuaries and partners, visit the sanctuary website dedicated to reducing ship strike risk to whales. Sanctuaries are host to numerous threatened and endangered whale species such as blue, humpback, fin, sperm, and western North Pacific gray whales among others. These migratory whales rely on the highly productive waters located in the West Coast sanctuaries supplied by the California Current System.
NOAA Fisheries Service - Northeast Science Center
The North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Survey (NARWSS) is a NOAA Fisheries program that locates and records the seasonal distribution of North Atlantic right whales off the northeastern coast of the United States. Surveys are conducted year-round aboard a NOAA Twin Otter aircraft that flies systematic track lines within eleven primary survey blocks including Cashes Ledge, Franklin Basin, Georges Basin, Georges Shoal, Great South Channel (SCOPEX North and South), Howell Swell, Jeffreys Ledge, Jordan Basin, Lindenkohl Basin, and Stellwagen Bank.
Canadian Whale Institute
The Canadian Whale Institute conducts and supports activities to better understand and protect marine mammals and promote responsibility for their habitats. They collaborate with marine industries to develop solutions, conduct scientific research, provide educational programs, and rescue marine mammals entangled in gear.
Channel Island Cetacean Research Unit
The Channel Islands Cetacean Research Unit (CICRU) contributes daily to cetacean research and understanding the health of the oceans. CICRU is a bio-surveillance research group analyzing the health of the ocean through the health of cetaceans. They believe in "One Ocean, One Health."
Bay of Fundy / Tidal Energy
Tidal Energy is teaming up with scientists to better understand the potential impact of tidal turbine power generators on local marine life, including whales and other marine mammals. The group is utilizing the Whale Alert platform to survey and track the movements of marine mammals in the proposed areas of development and will be using the platform to monitor the environment on an ongoing basis.
Whale Alert Alaska - National Park Service
A partnership between NPS Glacier Bay, Whale Alert, NOAA, and the state of Alaska provides in-season daily updates of whale presence to reduce vessel strikes in the waters of Southeast Alaska. Vetted industry members including cruise ship operators and pilots for the Alaska Marine Highway System use Whale Alert to keep informed of recent sightings.
The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy. Ørsted is the global leader in offshore wind, responsible for more than a quarter of the world’s installed offshore wind capacity. Since 2006, they have increased the share of green energy in our heat and power generation from 13 to 64%. Now, they have set a new target of more than 95% green energy by 2023. Ørsted is a financial backer of Whale Alert and a key representative of a network of energy partners.
ProtectedSeas publishes the most comprehensive Marine Managed Area map online and is an active developer of ocean conservation technology. ProtectedSeas provides critical technical resources and ongoing support for the ever-expanding set of Whale Alert projects.
History of Whale Alert
The rules and regulations designed to protect right whales are a result of more than 20 years of effort by scientists, government, and conservation groups to gather and analyze data on the intersection of whale “zones” and shipping vessel traffic. These risk profiles resulted in management actions to reduce strike risk that (ideally) allow whales and ships to share the same waters, leading to the development of Whale Alert.
Whale Alert 1.0
WhaleAlert was first launched in April of 2012 as a free app for iPads and iPhones to display speed zone regulations and whale management areas on the U.S. Atlantic Coast. The target audience was the shipping industry and the app focused on easing compliance with existing regulations by displaying these measures on easy-to-read nautical charts with pop-up alerts to serve as reminders when vessels enter regulated areas. The mix of real-time (or near real-time) data projected over the internet to smartphones and tablets made compliance measures much easier to understand and act upon.
Whale Alert 2.0
The ability to submit sightings allowed users to participate in the conservation of these species by reporting sightings of live, dead, and distressed animals.
In addition to protecting right whales, Whale Alert 2.0 incorporated a longer list of threatened and endangered species including the blue whale, and expanded to cover Canadian and US Pacific waters. Combined with the addition of the app to the Android platform, this update made this tool national and international in scope and impact.
Whale Alert 3.0
Whale Alert 2.0 provided users a way to submit sightings. Our latest Whale Alert update is all about letting users explore the sightings submitted.
Whale Alert now includes sightings from acoustic buoys and gliders, trusted human observers in the protected species observer and whale tour industries, as well as sightings from everyday Whale Alert users!
Connect With Us
"Whale Alert" is trademark protected.
Conserve.IO / International Fund for Animal Welfare / U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries