SAvE Whales: How will the innovative system operate in the Kythera strait

The SAvE Whales system for the prevention of ship strikes on sperm whales in the Kythera strait was featured in an article on Greek newspaper “To Vima” (28/04/2024).

The Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy, the Natural Environment and Climate Change Agency (NECCA) of Greece, together with the international marine conservation organisation OceanCare and The Green Tank announced their commitment to ensure the implementation of this system, as part of the Our Ocean Conference 2024.

If a vessel is on a collision course with a whale, its captain can be warned well in advance, such that the ship slows down and/or changes course in time to prevent the collision.

As described in the article by Machie Tratsa, the collaboration aims for SAvE Whales to become an official mitigation and warning tool that will alert mariners about the presence of sperm whales in the Strait of Kythira.

“NECCA will be in charge of the operation of the project, while the Greek MEEN will  ensure that the relevant conditions for the full operation of the project and the involvement of relevant authorities are fulfilled. The collaboration begins with an initial phase during which the details of the necessary steps for the development, testing and full operation of the system will be defined. The SAvE Whales system is planned to become fully operational until 2028”, said Ioli Christopoulou.

SAvE Whales uses solar-powered high-tech buoys and/or cabled bottom stations equipped with hydrophones that receive the clicking sounds of the sperm whales, process them and send filtered data to a land-based analysis centre where computer models are used to detect, precisely localize the animals, and finally forward the localization fixes to nearby ships, all in real time.

Ship strikes are recognized as the main threat to sperm whales in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Hellenic Trench, stretching between the Ionian, South Cretan and Levantine Seas, is a core habitat for this species and a high-risk area for ships colliding with whales. That region is passed by around 30,000 large ships every year. Between 1992 and 2021, more than 50% of the sperm whales found stranded on the Greek coastline showed clear marks of collisions with ships.

You can read more about SAvE Whales here.

You can find the article by Machie Tratsa in Greek here.