One of the challenges of a global economy is the ability to transport goods and raw material across vast oceans in ways that do not negatively impact the environment or marine wildlife.

However, the reality is that there are often vessel collisions with wildlife, such as whales who call the oceans their homes.

The threats to whales from ship strikes are important both from an ecological and economical perspective.  According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), slow-moving whales are highly vulnerable to ship strikes, since many of their feeding and migration areas overlap with shipping lanes.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that more than one-third of whales killed between 1970 and 2007 were a result of collisions with sea vessels.

In 2007, four blue whales were killed by a strike in and around the Santa Barbara Channel. NOAA Fisheries declared this an Unusual Mortality Event. In 2010, five whales (two blue, one humpback and two fin whales) were killed by confirmed or likely ship strikes in the San Francisco area and elsewhere along the north-central California coast.

To help save the lives of the whales, NOAA is tackling the issue head on with the enhancement of its iOs-based Whale Alert app, which was originally developed in 2012.

According to this GCN article, the free app has been updated to provide mariners in the Pacific with a single source for the most current information available about whale movements and conservation initiatives in their immediate vicinity.

Already using GPS, Automatic Identification System, wireless internet and nautical charts from NOAA, the upgraded app now offers information about California Marine Protected Areas, PORTS (Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System) tide and weather data. It also allows the public to report whale sightings to databases that NOAA and whale biologists use to map whale habitats and migration patterns.

NOAA developed the Whale Alert app in collaboration with academic institutions, non-profit conservation groups and private sector industries.

Through the use of innovation, NOAA is playing a key role in helping minimize the impact of our global economy on the delicate ecology of our planet.  This is why we are naming the agency this week’s “GovTransformer.”  Stay tuned for our ongoing coverage of other federal executives and their agencies that are truly transforming how they support mission goals through the most effective use of IT.