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The green ticket. A Mediterranean Waze to preserve cetaceans

Demonstration of the Repcet application on September 14, 2017 aboard Paolo Lota (Corsica ferries) to avoid the collision between large boats and whales. (PATRICK BLANCHARD / MAXPPP)

Between eight and 40 whales are victims of collisions each year in the Mediterranean, according to WWF. So to remedy this problem, ten years ago, an application was devised by the Souffleurs d'écume association. Her name is Repcet. It is a bit like the Waze of the sea except that the sailors do not report the other boats on their routes but all the cetaceans they meet. The application was launched by a former commander of SNCM, Société nationale de Corse Méditerranée, Fredéric Capoulade, marked by the collision with a cetacean 20 years ago, when he was crossing between Nice and Corsica. The animal died, the boat suffered a waterway and the passengers arrived very late.

Between 2017 and 2018, Repcet doubled the number of reports of whales, whales and other cetaceans with more than 1,800 observations transmitted to the software. But for now, the application only equips 39 French ships. For the association Souffleurs d'écume which imagined it, it would have to equip all the boats which pass by the Mediterranean, and it is nevertheless 30% of the world maritime traffic. These promoters are therefore counting on the Euromaritime exhibition to make maritime professionals even more aware of the subject. They hope that the captains of the liners will also see the benefit in avoiding problems during the crossing.

Reporting cetaceans is good, avoiding them is better. For this, it is also necessary to slow down the speed of the boats. Otherwise the legislator can prohibit certain maritime routes too close to the cetacean breeding areas, as is the case in the North Pacific for example. But as shipowners absolutely want to avoid this constraint, more and more of them are willing to reduce their speed to 12 knots. A good thing, according to Canadian researcher Kimberly Davies, who has developed a whale watching system in the St. Lawrence. “At 20 knots, 100% of the whales hit perish, at 10 knots their mortality drops to 30%”explains the researcher.

For passengers on ferries between Corsica and the mainland, for example, preserving the life of cetaceans is one hour more on their journey but it is also one hour more to have the chance to observe them. Finally, it is not only collisions that have an impact on cetaceans, noise is also widely implicated. Several solutions exist to build less noisy boats in particular thanks to hulls and more efficient propellers and equipped with elastic membranes. Here too, solutions are presented at the Euromaritime show in Marseille.

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