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WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS)

For Mariners

About the WRAS

In October 2018, the Ocean Wise Sightings Network (formerly the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network) launched an alert system that broadcasts pertinent details of whale presence to large commercial vessels.  Information on whale presence is obtained from real-time observations reported to the Ocean Wise Sightings Network via the WhaleReport app.  The alerts inform shipmasters and pilots of cetacean occurrence in their vicinity.  This awareness better enables vessels to undertake adaptive mitigation measures, such as slowing down or altering course in the presence of cetaceans, to reduce the risk of collision and disturbance.

How Does the WRAS Work?

Whale presence information is obtained from real-time observations, sent in by trusted observers using the BC Cetacean Sightings Network’s existing WhaleReport app. Access to the WRAS is only granted to the operators of ships, tugs, and ferries and is not available for public use.

Two Ways Ship Crew are Alerted

Ship crews are alerted to whales in two ways: 1) Pilots and shipmasters receive text alerts via the WRAS app when within 10 nautical miles of reported whale locations. Alerts expire based on the species sighted. 2) Vessel operations centers use a desktop map interface to relay whale reports to fleet ships, especially useful in areas with limited cellphone coverage or when mobile device use is restricted.

Why is the WRAS Needed?

There is an urgent need to protect British Columbia’s vulnerable cetacean (whale, dolphin, and porpoise) populations. Impacted by anthropogenic threats, including ship strikes, vessel noise, and disturbance, 12 of the 23 species of cetaceans found in B.C. are currently listed as “At Risk” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.

Get Involved

Commercial Mariners (marine pilots, shipmasters, and operations centre staff) can help!

If you belong to a professional marine organization and are a pilot or member of the bridge crew of a ship, please complete the form below to request access to the WhaleReport Alert System. Within two business days, the Project Manager will assess and validate your request for access. Once your request is validated, you will receive instructions on how to download and use WRAS. For access to the desktop interface, please contact the WRAS Project Manager.

Become a Whales Program Partner

Cetaceans can be struck and fatally injured by ships

Studies have demonstrated that the probability of striking cetaceans increases with ship speed. Ships traveling below 10 knots have a low risk of striking and fatally injuring a cetacean, whereas travelling at greater than 17.5 knots greatly increases that risk. Reducing speed in areas commonly used by cetaceans allows more time for the animal to avoid the oncoming vessel and/or the vessel to adjust its course. For example, speed restrictions in the eastern U.S. that require vessels greater than 65 meters in length to travel at speeds of 10 knots or less in areas frequented by endangered North Atlantic right whales have decreased strike-related mortality of this species by 80-90%.

Cetacean populations are also vulnerable to general disturbance by vessels. The presence of vessels may disturb and alter activities essential to cetacean survival, such as foraging, diving, resting, avoiding predators, communicating, socializing, mating and nursing calves. Interrupting these activities negatively affects individuals. In small populations (e.g. southern resident killer whales), these impacts on individuals can have population-level effects. To reduce disturbance, vessels should keep a distance of at least 200 meters; greater distances are even more beneficial.

Vessel noise can increase a whale’s stress level, cause it to move away from or avoid entering an area, and mask crucial echolocation and vocalizations. Vessel noise can generally be decreased by operating below cavitation inception speed and avoiding rapid acceleration, as well as rerouting when in the immediate vicinity of cetaceans and known sensitive marine areas.

The importance of reducing vessel-associated impacts is highlighted in the SARA Recovery Strategies and Management Plans for all 12 of listed cetacean species. Increasing mariners’ awareness of whale presence will allow them to mitigate the impact of their vessels by slowing down or rerouting in the vicinity of these vulnerable animals.

Data Providers

Ocean Wise has partnered with data cooperative to provide increased marine mammal detections into the WhaleReport Alert System, particularily in Washington State. Acartia is a decentralized data cooperative for sharing marine animal locations within the Salish Sea. It is named for one of the smallest animals in Puget Sound - microscopic copepods - but was built to recover one of the biggest - the endangered Southern Resident killer whales.

Orca Network

Orca Network is dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest, the importance of providing them with healthy and safe habitat, and finding ways for people to work together to protect the rich, beautiful, and diverse Salish Sea. Orca Network provides data into the WhaleReport Alert System via is bringing conservation into the 21st century by deploying a mix of mobile, web and crowdsourcing technology to simplify and scale the collection of conservation data and to make that data more actionable. provides data into the WhaleReport Alert System via

Beam Reach

Beam Reach catalyzes marine conservation wherever endangered salmon-eating orcas roam — from northern California to southeast Alaska. Based in Seattle, we are bioacoustic experts who create innovative technological solutions with our non-profit, government, and industry partners to help save the whales. Beam Reach provides data into the WhaleReport Alert System via

Frequently Asked Questions

Want to know how the WhaleReport Alert System (WRAS) works? Who has access? How you can report sightings without cell service? Check out this FAQ.

Ways to Reduce your Impact

When safety considerations allow, mariners can reduce their chance of striking or disturbing whales in the following ways:

1. Keep your distance.  Stay at least 200 metres away when possible; greater distances are more beneficial.  Learn more about the Be Whale Wise Guidelines here.

2. Reduce your speed.  Slowing below your vessel’s cavitation inception reduces underwater noise that may affect whale foraging and communication.  The chance of a ship striking and killing or seriously injuring a whale is greatly reduced when a ship travels at 10 knots or less.

3. Avoid rapid acceleration.  Limit changes in RPM while transiting past whales.

4. Reroute. Consider the whale’s direction of travel and avoid entering their path.

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