Martha Rojas Urrego

IWC Executive Secretary


I am delighted to support World Wildlife Day on behalf of the International Whaling Commission. The theme of digital innovation in wildlife conservation is extremely relevant to our work.

Many whale species are found in remote regions where extreme cold and rough seas present unique challenges which technology increasingly helps us overcome. Instead of relying solely on surveys conducted from a ship or aircraft, we now have the technology to do this from our offices, using satellites and conducting population assessments which literally count whales from space.

Genetic and stock structure information can now be obtained using drones, which can also assess the body condition of individual animals. Stranding response teams on remote beaches can share imagery and receive real-time advice from experts thousands of miles away. 

Mapping tools track the presence of chemical contaminants in oceans and identify collision hot spots, where busy shipping lanes and vulnerable whale populations coincide. Apps can alert ships to the presence of whales in particular regions. Ships can be fitted with thermal cameras or acoustic monitors to detect individual animals, and acoustic pingers are keeping cetaceans away from fishing nets to reduce bycatch.

Technology also helps us raise awareness and educate. From the deck of a boat, whale watching operators and tourists can access our Whale Watching Handbook, downloading factsheets and illustrations to help identify and learn about the whale in the water in front of them. 

Digital innovations play an increasing and vital role in cetacean science and broader wildlife science and conservation. Today provides a unique opportunity to share experiences, raise awareness and increase the use of these technologies.  I welcome this theme and wish you a happy World Wildlife Day.

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