Learn about the five-step detection process:

  1. 1. Detect
  2. 2. Transmit
  3. 3. Analyze
  4. 4. Notify
  5. 5. Avoid

Alerting ship traffic

The main recipients of whale alerts are ships headed for a liquefied natural gas terminal located at the western end of the buoy array and operated by Northeast Gateway Deepwater Port.

When ships bound for the terminal are in Massachusetts Bay (roughly once per week when the terminal is operating at full capacity), Cornell sound analysts monitor buoy reports round the clock. Analysts stay on duty from before the ships enter the buoy array until the ship is safely anchored at the terminal. They continuously issue updates to inform the ships which of the 10 buoys have heard a right whale in the last 24 hours.

When no natural-gas ships are in the shipping lanes, analysts provide updates every 12 hours for the benefit of other traffic. These summaries are made available to any ship or boat via the Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (SAS) operated by NOAA. The reports are available online and are also distributed by e-mail. The information is also incorporated into marine safety bulletins.

Step 5 > Ships may slow and avoid whales