US Coast Guard launches traffic control for whales

The new pilot program hopes to prevent whale deaths by directing boats to give them more room.

A photo of orcas out in the Puget Sound.

Transient pod T123 takes a breath and shows off baby T123D.

Photo by Jann Pulfer Ledbetter

Here’s some news straight from the new “Cetacean Desk” — the US Coast Guard has now launched its first ever whale traffic control program. The initiative aims to protect the safety of marine mammals and make the Puget Sound a bit quieter for them.

The Cetacean Desk is modeled after Canada’s Marine Mammal Desk and uses real-time data already being compiled by the Orca Network, WhaleReport, and Whale Alert to alert mariners about the whereabouts of nearby whales.

Mariners can then steer clear of the whales to prevent unintentional harm. Maps that show recent sightings will also be available to any crews as they traverse the waters.

The pilot program plans to run for four years in order to gather data on its performance to improve its effectiveness in protecting whales. It will also collaborate with local nonprofits and Native tribes in the process.