Virginia CZM Wind Energy Area Survey- Vessel Survey Sightings - November 2012 through April 2014

Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center

Dataset credit

Virginia Aquarium Foundation - Sarah D. Mallette, Gwen G. Lockhart, Susan G. Barco
University of North Carolina Wilmington - William A. McLellan, Ryan J. McAlarney Erin W. Cummings and D. Ann Pabst


Primary contact Sue Barco Virginia Aquarium Foundation-Research
Data entry Ei Fujioka Duke University


Barco, S. 2014. Virginia CZM Wind Energy Area Survey- Vessel Survey Sightings - November 2012 through April 2014. Data downloaded from OBIS-SEAMAP ( on yyyy-mm-dd.


The data provided were collected as part of the Documenting Whale Migration off Virginia's Coast for Use in Marine Spatial Planning project - funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Grant Section 309 Environmental Enhancement Program Strategy Project of Special Merit No. NA12NOS4190027. Vessel photo ID and biopsy surveys were conducted under Vessel surveys are conducted under NOAA Scientific Permits No. 16325, Province Town Center for Coastal Studies.


On November 1, 2013, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced Dominion Virginia Power was the provisional winner of the commercial lease area offshore of Virginia (VA WEA). Development of off shore wind energy poses potential threats to marine mammals, including direct effects (i.e. vessel interactions, collision and entanglement with structures, displacement, avoidance, or injury due to noise from construction or operations) and indirect threats (i.e. effects on prey species, increased risk of fishery and vessel interaction through displacement out of the WEA) (BOEM 2012). This information is important to mitigate the potentially harmful impacts from ocean development, shipping, and other anthropogenic activities. To address these existing data gaps, we have collected marine mammal sighting data from multiple platforms in addition to sea turtle sighting data off the coast of Virginia from 2012 to 2014. Aerial surveys are ideal for covering a large area efficiently, but individual animal identification from the air is difficult for species other than north Atlantic right whales. To identify individual humpback whales, ventral fluke, peduncle and right and left dorsal fin images are required. These images can only be reliably collected from a vessel. In addition, biopsy samples for stock and sex determination and details regarding animal behavior and body condition can be collected from vessels. As part of this project, we used vessel surveys to collect images of humpback and fin whales for identification and biopsy samples for future analyses as part of a larger project being conducted on Gulf of Maine whales.

Supplemental information

These surveys are directed and thus contain inherent bias that makes the use in density and abundance estimates problematic. The transect data are available on OBIS-SEAMAP in the Virginia CZM Wind Energy Area Survey- Vessel Sightings - November 2012 through April 2014. The effort data layer, for this project is static transect lines. The most of the vessel track lines and GPS track-point locations are available by request in the form of a file geodatabase. Virginia CZM Aerial survey data, collected during this project is also available on OBIS-SEAMAP.


Sarah D. Mallette, Gwen G. Lockhart, Ryan J. McAlarney, Erin W. Cummings, William A. McLellan, D. Ann Pabst and Susan G. Barco. 2014. Documenting Whale Migration off Virginia’s Coast for Use in Marine Spatial Planning: Aerial and Vessel Surveys in the Proximity of the Virginia Wind Energy Area (VA WEA). VAQF Scientific Report 2014-08. pp. 89.



This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
objectidRow ID assigned by VAQF ArcGIS
obs_dateObservation date
obs_timeObservation time in Eastern Standard Time
animal_idUnique ID assigned to each animal in the VAQF vessel sightings database
sp_obsSpecies name recorded
sp_tsnTaxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
obs_countNumber of animals. Always 1
scientificScientific name
commonCommon name
latitudeLatitude in decimal degrees. Some records do not have coordinates.
longitudeLongitude in decimal degrees. Some records do not have coordinates.
photosWhether animal was photographed or not
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals61
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial12
Non species0
Date, Begin2012-01-05
Date, End2013-01-29
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude36.77 - 37.00
Longitude-76.04 - -75.76
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typePhoto ID
Traveled (km)0
Contr. through
Sharing policy CC-BY-NC (Minimum)
Shared with OBIS
GBIF (via DOI)
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics