A Montreal-based company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to track marine mammals like whales, seals and polar bears has been named one of the world's top 10 AI projects for sustainable development by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The AI tool Mobius, created by the company Whale Seeker, analyzes aerial images to detect the presence of marine mammals. This allows the maritime industry to avoid collisions and better assess where they should and shouldn't fish.

On April 21, Whale Seeker learned it was selected by UNESCO's International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) as a top AI project for sustainable development.

"We would now like to begin working with you on the preparation of your public outreach activities," reads a letter sent to Whale Seeker from IRCAI director John Shawe Taylor.

"Our team is dedicated to developing and using technology for the common good and we are thrilled to have our efforts recognized on the world stage. This award is a testament to our high ethical standards and commitment to using AI to support sustainable development efforts and the fight against climate change," Whale Seeker founder Emily Charry Tissier wrote in a statement.

According to a study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, Mobius can detect marine mammals 25 times faster than the human eye.

The study found the software could analyze 5500 images in 53 hours, while researchers have done the same job with the naked eye in 1,300 hours.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 4, 2023.