Whale Seeker's AI tool to detect marine mammals wins contract

Whale Seeker’s AI tool to detect marine mammals wins contract

December 6, 2022

A large group of narwhals detected and annotated by Möbius, Whale Seeker’s AI-powered image annotation system. Photo credit: Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) hopes that artificial intelligence tools like Whale Seeker’s Möbius, used to reduce the time and cost of wildlife surveys, can be extended to use monitoring capabilities in many new contexts.

Möbius, Whale Seeker’s proprietary AI tool, has been trained over the past four years with high-quality datasets specifically to identify marine mammals. The tool is the key component of a project to analyze 100,000 aerial images of Arctic marine mammals from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Canada’s federal institution is responsible for protecting the country’s waters and managing Canada’s fish and ocean resources. DFO supports economic growth in the marine and fisheries sectors, as well as innovation in areas such as aquaculture and biotechnology.

Whale Seeker has now been awarded a $529,000 contract from Innovative Solutions Canada, as part of Innovative Solutions Canada’s testing stream for marine species and biodiversity detection technologies. The project involves, as noted above, analyzing 100,000 aerial images of Arctic marine mammals taken by DFO using Whale Seeker’s Möbius.

Whale Seeker is a Canadian company leveraging ethical AI to simplify visual whale monitoring. Founded in 2018 by Emily Charry Tissier, Antoine Gagné-Turcotte and Bertrand Charry, Whale Seeker bridges the gap between profitability and sustainability by making whale detection fast, accurate and accessible.

Trained in the identification of marine mammals, Möbius uses a “human-in-the-loop” approach, which combines the mass processing power of computer models and input from expert marine scientists. Möbius processes aerial survey images much faster and more accurately than manual annotations, then returns detailed, transparent and verifiable data in a standardized form, allowing meaningful comparisons between survey years and regions.

From left to right, Bertrand Charry, Antoine Gagné-Turcotte and Emily Charry Tissier

Möbius was also used for seals

In recent years, aerial surveys have relied on manually analyzed aerial photographs to identify animals of interest. This method is time consuming and requires multiple readers to verify counts. With AI tools like Möbius, it becomes easier for DFO, which is responsible for the sustainable management of marine resources, including marine mammals, to estimate the size of different marine mammal populations.

By standardizing data analysis and reducing the time and cost associated with wildlife survey campaigns, DFO hopes to increase the size and scope of its projects, extend monitoring capabilities to new contexts and, by ultimately make decisions based on easier access to high-quality data. Although the name Whale Seeker suggests that Möbius is designed to identify whales, when the company was approached recently to monitor seals from aerial imagery using machine learning, it agreed to the challenge.

In an article written by Antoine Gagné and published on the company’s website, it is discovered that the team has already built the pipelines for other species, all they needed was a set of data to start building. a preliminary model, and this was found on the NOAA Arctic Seals 2019 dataset containing 40,000 images with over 14,000 seals annotated. For now, however, Möbius studies whales using DFO data.

“We are excited to have this opportunity with DFO to scale Möbius and use ethical AI to manage Canada’s marine mammals. said Emily Charry Tissier, CEO and co-founder of Whale Seeker. “Our collaboration will add value to existing monitoring programs and help managers make better science-based decisions with rapid access to high-quality data.” she added.

This contract will allow Whale Seeker to further refine Möbius and evolve the tool to bring added value to its customers. The project started on November 3, 2022 and will continue until March 31, 2023.

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada is pleased to partner with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Whale Seeker under the Innovative Solutions Canada program. As a testing service, our scientists have worked closely with Whale Seeker to apply their technology to improve the delivery of scientific advice on Arctic marine mammal stocks,” said Joyce Murray, Minister Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

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