How whales help fight climate change

Blue carbon research has thus far mostly concentrated on sedentary, primarily coastal ecosystems including coral, seagrass, kelp, and mangroves. Beyond the coastal flora, scientists have found that whales play a crucial biological function in the ocean’s ability to store significant amounts of carbon, which helps to slow down global warming. However, no carbon or biodiversity system has been created to value and commercialize an offset for the role that whales play in the open ocean’s carbon sequestration.

Scientists now understand that without biodiversity ecosystems lose their resilience and potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere at the rates required to keep inside the 1.5 °C warming limit, both in the ocean and on land. Whales are crucial allies in the battle against climate change.

It is critical that a market-ready whale credit system and the required policy be developed in order to encourage global whale monitoring and conservation. Data on whales and the ocean, scientific investigation, monitoring technology, and cooperation among ocean stakeholders are all necessary for determining the value of whale ecosystem services and developing a market solution.

The distinctive contribution of Whale Seeker is to develop ethical AI and visual remote sensing technologies that can monitor whale presence and prevent harm from companies that share the whales’ ocean environment. With the help of this technology, business operational procedures and standards will be more accountable and verifiable.

Whale Seeker™ is leading this project in the Canadian Arctic, to develop and test a scalable whale carbon and biodiversity detection methodology and credit system to incentivize all marine actors to monitor marine mammal presence and take meaningful action to avoid conflict with them. By basing our methodology on images, we are both providing an auditable quantitative measure of marine mammals and firm metrics to aid in ESG reporting. The pilot project will focus on narwhals (Monodon monoceros), using existing scientific data collected over 10 years to model and verify whale services, while also bringing in new and existing aerial imagery and satellite technology to measure whale abundance in relation to ocean productivity and health. With these advances in science and technology, along with other test cases around the globe to address other whale threats such as entanglements, we aim to deliver verified carbon/biodiversity credits to marine industries in the next two years.

“Our current economic paradigm values dead whales that are sold for their meat. In contrast, living whales are valued at zero dollars although their ecological services, including carbon sequestration, are incredibly valuable to our own survival and well-being as well as to the health of our ocean. We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes and values the services of a living and thriving nature, both flora and fauna. This new nature-positive economy will lead to sustainable and shared prosperity for all” … says Ralph Chami, Assistant Director at the IMF.

“Increasing the world’s whale populations is a win-win strategy to capture more carbon from the atmosphere and improve ocean health. However, for whale protection measures to be adopted on a global scale, we need to incentivize businesses and other stakeholders by proving the benefits of protecting whales far exceed the cost. By using ethical AI we aim to set not only a high technical standard for whale detection but also an ethical one.”, adds Emily Charry-Tissier, CEO and Co-Founder of Whale Seeker.

“For centuries people have used the latest technologies to hunt down and kill whales,” says Ed Goodall, from project board member WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation. “It is a measure of just how far we have come from those dark days that we are now using the latest technology to hunt down and save them. Whales play an outsized role in the marine ecosystem and carbon capture, but these ‘services’ have not fully recognised or valued before. We are now in a race against time to build the evidence base, and secure the finance needed to help whale populations recover, and we are delighted to be working with Whale Seeker on this exciting, cutting-edge project.”

This project will develop scalable, replicable methodology and market solutions for marine mammal health and ocean protection on a worldwide scale. The status of the whale populations around the world is a powerful tool for reducing climate change and a clear sign of the health of the oceans.


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