[MARMAM] New publications on whale detection using thermal (IR) imaging

Daniel P. Zitterbart dpz at whoi.edu
Sun Mar 29 12:19:45 PDT 2020

Dear marmam community,

We'd like to bring your attention to two recently published articles on 
marine mammal detection using infrared (IR) imaging:

A) evaluates the influence of environmental factors on thermal imaging 
systems for marine mammal detection, provides various detection 
functions, and compares automatic detection algorithm performance 
against visual observers.

B) describes a vessel based field experiment where IR imaging, passive 
acoustic monitoring (PAM), and visual observers were compared for their 
real-time marine mammal detection performance in the North Atlantic.
Both articles are Open Access.

Scaling the laws of thermal imaging-based whale detection.
DP Zitterbart, H Smith, M Flau, S Richter, E Burkhardt, J Beland, L 
Bennett, A Cammareri, A Davis, M Holst, C Lanfredi, H Michel, M Noad, K 
Owen, A Pacini, and Olaf Boebel
Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology

Marine mammals are under growing pressure as anthropogenic use of the 
ocean increases. Ship-strikes of large whales and loud underwater sound 
sources including airguns for marine geophysical prospecting and naval 
mid-frequency sonar are criticized for their possible negative effects 
on marine mammals. Competent authorities regularly require the 
implementation of mitigation measures, including vessel speed reductions 
or shut-down of acoustic sources if marine mammals are sighted in 
sensitive areas or in predefined exclusion zones around a vessel. To 
ensure successful mitigation, reliable at-sea detection of animals is 
crucial. To date, ship-based marine mammal observers are the most 
commonly implemented detection method, however thermal (IR) imaging 
based automatic detection systems have been used in recent years. This 
study evaluates thermal imaging-based automatic whale detection 
technology for its use across different oceans. The performance of this 
technology is characterized with respect to environmental conditions, 
and an automatic detection algorithm for whale blows is presented. The 
technology can detect whales in polar, temperate and subtropical ocean 
regimes over distances of up to several kilometers and outperforms 
marine mammal observers in the number of whales detected. These results 
show that thermal imaging technology can be used to assist in providing 
protection for marine mammals against ship-strike and acoustic impact 
across the world’s oceans.


A field comparison of marine mammal detections via visual, acoustic, and 
infrared (IR) imaging methods offshore Atlantic Canada.
HR Smith, DP Zitterbart, TF Norris, M Flau, E Ferguson, C Jones, O 
Boebel, V Moulton
Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 154, May 2020, 111026

Impulsive sounds generated during seismic surveys have elicited 
behavioral responses in marine mammals and could cause hearing 
impairment or injury. Mitigating exposure to seismic sound often relies 
on real-time marine mammal detection. Detection performance is 
influenced by detection method, environmental conditions, and observer 
experience. We conducted a field comparison of real-time detections made 
by marine mammal observers (MMOs), a rotating infrared (IR) camera, and 
via passive acoustic monitoring (PAM). Data were collected from a 38 m 
research vessel offshore Atlantic Canada. Our results indicate that 
overall detection rates increase when complementary methods are used. 
MMOs and PAM are likely the most effective combination during high seas 
and precipitation. PAM and IR can be used in darkness. In good 
visibility, MMOs with IR or PAM should increase detections. Our results 
illustrate the importance of addressing false positive IR detections, 
matching system capabilities to sea conditions/species of interest, and 
employing experienced observers.

Please contact Daniel Zitterbart (dpz at whoi.edu) or Heather Smith 
(hsmith at lgl.com) with any questions.
All the best,
Daniel & Heather

Daniel P. Zitterbart
Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

213 Bigelow Lab., MS#11
Woods Hole, MA 02543

mail: dpz at whoi.edu
group site: https://www2.whoi.edu/staff/dzitterbart/

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