US federal officials trying to reduce the number of whales struck and killed by ships sailing in and out of San Francisco Bay are testing a new smartphone application that could help locate the mammals more accurately. The "Whale Spotter" app would allow sailors, fishermen, and marine scientists who spot whales to plot their location on an interactive map. The maps created could then be used by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Coast Guard officials to recommend different vessel routes.
In the busy ports of the San Francisco Bay Area, more than 7,300 large ships head through the Golden Gate each year. Just outside the bay, whales often swim along the continental shelf, where their food supply is plentiful. Several dead whales, including an endangered fin whale, suspected to have been killed by ship strikes have washed ashore this year in the Bay Area. The weeklong tests of the app beginning Saturday will occur in the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries. (Read more apps stories.)