Marine scientists have deployed a hi-tech acoustic monitoring buoy in New York Bight that allows them to eavesdrop on whales making their way through some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The project, undertaken by researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society New York Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, was announced this week.

The buoy is located between two major shipping lanes entering New York Harbor, 22 miles south of Fire Island’s west end, officials said.

“This technology allows us to monitor the presence of several species of baleen whales in near-real time, and to use that knowledge to better study and protect these endangered species,” said Dr. Mark Baumgartner, a marine ecologist and a co-lead on the project who developed the technology and oversaw its integration into the buoy.

Similar buoys have been deployed in the waters of New England but the near real-time technology is a first for the New York Bight, a region that spans an area of the Atlantic from Montauk to NYC to Cape May.

“The acoustic buoy data will help us to better understand when and where whales are present in New York’s waters, particularly in those places where we have little information on how whales are affected by ship traffic and ocean noise” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, also a co-lead on the project.

Dr. Rosenbaum is the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Program.

“When used in conjunction with other surveys and technologies, this buoy will give us a more holistic picture on how whales use this marine habitat, and how to better protect whales in our own backyard.”

Those whales include the humpback and the blue whale, which is the largest animal ever to exist on earth, as well as the the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale, which migrates through our waters.

Fin, sei, minke, and sperm whales have also been seen or heard in the New York Bight, according to the researchers.

“The presence of some of the world’s largest animals in New York waters is a reminder that we are surrounded by an ocean wilderness and something of a delightful surprise for many New Yorkers,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, the New York Aquarium’s vice president and director.  “In addition to learning more about whales, the acoustic buoy will help us raise awareness about the diversity of marine wildlife of New York Bight, a critical step towards conserving our region’s natural wealth.”

The project was made possible by The G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation.

Top photo: A humpback whale feeds off the Rockaways on Sept. 4, 2014.  (Michael Busch/Great South Bay Images

Mark Baumgartner Associate Scientist Biology Department Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Julianne Gurnee Passive Acoustic Research Group / Protected Species Branch NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Mark Baumgartner with the acoustic buoy now deployed in New York Bight. (courtesy photo)

Humpback Whale Lunge Feeding Off NYC 9-4-14 from on Vimeo.