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Soon, count whales from above the sky

Posted on Feb 13 2014 | IANS

London, Feb 13 : Marine mammals are extremely difficult to count on a large scale and through traditional methods. Here comes a new satellite technology that can be used to count whales, and ultimately estimate their population size.

Using Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery - alongside image processing software - scientists were able to automatically detect and count whales breeding in parts of the Golfo Nuevo, Peninsula Valdes in Argentina.

The new method could revolutionise how whale population size is estimated.

"This is a proof of concept study that proves whales can be identified and counted by satellite," said lead author Peter Fretwell from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).

"The ability to count whales automatically, over large areas in a cost effective way would be of great benefit to conservation efforts for this and potentially other whale species," he added.

Future satellite platforms would provide even high-quality imagery.

Such technological advancements may also allow scientists to apply this method to other whale species, said the study published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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