Scientists have demonstrated a new method for counting whales from space. The new method uses a very high-resolution satellite cameras and image processing software to automatically detect these mammals at or near the surface of the ocean.
A test run of this software was reported in the journal Plos One and was conducted just off the coast of Argentina.
This automated system found a particular whale population to within about 90% accuracy. This is a huge improvement on previous attempts at space-borne assessment, and could now revolutionise the way whale populations are estimated.
Currently, similar work is done through counts conducted from a coastline position, from the deck of a ship or from a plane. But these are necessarily narrow in scope. An automated satellite search could cover a much larger area of ocean and at a fraction of the cost
This is a picture of a humpback whale