Learn about the five-step detection process:

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

Swimming free

Auto-detection buoys can hear whales within 5 nautical miles, but they can’t pinpoint their location. So when a tanker bound for the natural gas terminal approaches a buoy that is on alert—meaning it has detected a right whale in the past 24 hours—the tanker slows to less than 10 knots (from open-water cruising speeds of 20 knots or more) and posts a lookout while the ship crosses the buoy’s listening circle.

Traveling at lower speeds improves a whale's chances of surviving a collision. It may also improve a ship crew's opportunities for spotting and avoiding a whale and may give a whale more of a chance to get out of the way. NOAA encourages all vessels—not just tankers bound for the natural gas terminal—to check recent alerts and to slow to no more than 10 knots when near a recent right whale detection. In addition, US law requires vessels 65 feet and greater to travel at 10 knots or less in this area during certain times of year (please see www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike for more information).

The information is out there. With just a little extra effort, we can give the right whale another chance at survival.

Map > See where whales are calling in Massachusetts Bay
Next steps > Studying whale sounds in depth