NOAA Releases Whale-Locating App for iPhone & iPad

Piloting a ship and trying to avoid colliding with a group of endangered whales? There’s an app for that.

According to Reuters reporter Ros Krasny, the iOS app is known as “Whale Alert” and is available as a free download to all iPhone 3 and iPad users. It was created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), along with the National Park Service (NPS), the Coast Guard, and other government organizations, educational institutions, and conservation groups.

Designed in order to protect the North Atlantic right whale, of which there are just an estimated 350 to 550 left alive in the world, the app acquires global positioning system (GPS) information and other technology to transmit the latest data regarding where the whales are gathering, Krasny said. That information is then placed over NOAA digital charts and displays it on the user’s smartphone or tablet computer, allowing captains to change course to avoid the massive mammals or slow down with the hopes that they will move on.

“Whale Alert represents an innovative collaboration to protect this critically endangered species,” David Wiley, NOAA´s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary research coordinator and project lead, said in a statement Wednesday. “Whale conservation is greater than any one organization and this project shows how many organizations can unite for a good cause.”

The app, which took 18 months to develop, was designed specifically with cruise and shipping vessels travelling along the Eastern Coast of North America in mind, Wired‘s Alexandra Chang said.

Prior to the release of Whale Alert, captains who wished to receive whale conservation data had to rely on radio, email, or faxes in order to learn of their locations, and determining the location of the mammals in relation to the ship requesting the information took a lot of time. However, as Patrick Ramage, the Global Whale Program Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), one of the organizations that worked on the app, told Chang, the new app “integrates all of this information and puts it in real time.”

“iPad technology is changing ℠I can´t´ to ℠I can,'” he added.

Whale Alert was co-developed by EarthNC, a Florida-based company specializing in spatial mapping systems and the integration of data like weather feeds in mobile apps, and Gaia GPS, an iOS and Android software developer focusing on topographical mapping apps and route-planning applications.

Whale Alert can be downloaded free of charge from the App store. More information on Whale Alert and the groups responsible for its development can be found at

Image 1: North Atlantic right whales are one of the world´s rarest large animals and are on the brink of extinction. Credit: NOAA, Taken under NOAA Fisheries Permit #605-1904

Image 2: For the first time, mariners operating along the U.S. east coast can receive a visual display of all relevant right whale management initiatives and warnings via their iPad or iPhone, including Seasonal and Dynamic Management Areas, Mandatory Ship Reporting areas, recommended routes, and automatic whale alerts triggered by acoustic detection buoys. A GPS system in the iPad shows the ship’s location relative to the management measures, simplifying mariner compliance. Clicking on a screen or icon activates a pop-up window with additional information. The accompanying image shows the iPad display as seen by a mariner approaching Boston Harbor. Credit: NOAA