The Right Whale Mapping Project is a collaborative effort to visualize the locations of right whales and subsequent surveys in the Gulf of Maine collected between 1978 and 2003 by eight different organizations using GIS. The goal of this project is to maintain an atlas of surveys and sightings to provide information on the extent of the surveys, arrival and departure of right whales from critical habitats, variability of habitat use within a given season and between years, and use of areas outside of the known critical habitats. We also used data from individual photographic identification  catalog maintained by the New England Aquarium to analyze movements of known right whales.

We used four different map series to help visualize the sightings and survey effort over the years. All off the data used were collected during systematic surveys during sea state less than 4 and visibility greater than 2 nautical miles. Opportunistic sightings were also included in recent map series.

The published report describing this project (pdf) provides insights into some of the important findings garnered from these plots with a specific focus on how these data pertain to shipping and fishing activities.

Yearly Series

All sightings and systematic survey effort for each year is displayed on an individual map, with months plotted in different colors.

Monthly Series

All sightings and good survey effort for each month displayed on an individual map, with years plotted in different colors.

Month by Year Series

Monthly sightings and survey data per year are plotted to help decipher the survey effort by month and year. (3-4 months per page to help show progression in effort and sightings).

Individual Animal Movement Series

This series displays the individual movements of right whales between habitats in the Gulf of Maine.


We would like to thank the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), who provided funding for this project. If further funding is obtained, we will continue this project on a yearly basis, please contact Amy Knowlton for further information.

The Right Whale Mapping Project was prepared and presented by Amy Knowlton and Beth Pike of the New England Aquarium, Jennifer Beaudin Ring a consultant to the New England Aquarium, Robert D. Kenney of the University of Rhode Island, and Bruce Russell, an maritime consultant for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.