Before this new technique was conceived, scientists had to count whales using a more primitive and painstaking method. Researchers and volunteers had to board ships and count whales by looking for distinctive blowholes sprays and the occasional jumping whale. Aside from being inefficient and time consuming, this method is also not very accurate. Moreover, scientists are limited to counting whales one small area at a time. With the new method, however, scientists have something even better than a bird's eye view of the oceans.
"This is a proof of concept study that proves whales can be identified and counted by satellite," says lead author Peter Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).