NYSDEC aerial surveys

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Dataset credit

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation


Primary contact Meghan Rickard New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Data entry Ei Fujioka Duke University



The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of
Marine Resources contracted Tetra Tech to conduct aerial whale monitoring in
the New York Bight (NYB). Monitoring consisted of 36 monthly line-transect
aerial surveys starting in March 2017 and ending in February 2020. The NYB
survey area is a 43,449 square kilometer area of ocean from the south shore of
Long Island to the continental shelf break. These surveys focused on six large
whale species: the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), fin whale (B.
physalus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), North Atlantic right
whale (Eubalaena glacialis), sei whale (B. borealis), and sperm whale
(Physeter macrocephalus). This longitudinal multi-year study provides new
insight into the occurrence, relative abundance, behavior, and densities and
abundance of the six large whale species, as well as the occurrence other
marine species, in the NYB.

A total of 733.1 hours and 149,482 kilometers of flight time were completed
over 263 survey flights. Observations were conducted by two observers from a
high-winged, twin-engine Partenavia aircraft; one observer was positioned on
each side of the aircraft and looked through bubble windows. Data recorded
included all parameters required to estimate density and abundance using
distance sampling techniques. A total of 3,069 sightings of 37,410 estimated
individuals were recorded, including all six large whale species, other marine
mammals, sea turtles, and other marine species (i.e., sharks, rays, fish
schools, etc.).

Further details may be found in the Final Comprehensive Report at
www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/mmaeran3.pdf and the associated


The primary goals of the aerial surveys were:
(1) Determine the distribution and estimate relative abundance and density of
the six large whale species;
(2) Determine monthly and seasonal occurrence, and inter-annual variability
of the distribution and estimated abundance, density, and relative abundance
for the six species;
(3) Record data about the behavior of sighted large whales;
(4) Record opportunistic sightings of sea turtles and other marine species; and
(5) Record relevant environmental variables.

Supplemental information

Environmental data are available and included in the downloadable zipped file.




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.
All attributes are included in the downloadable file (CSV or ESRI File Geodatabase) for "Complete Set of Dataset".

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
date_timedefinition not provided
decl_angleDeclination Angle to Sighting
bearing_obsObserved Bearing to Sighting (e.g. 320, R, L, 33R, 6:00)
speciesInitial Species Identification
sp_tsnTaxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
sgt_distDistance to sighting
init_grp_behInitial Group Behavior State: Fast Travel, Medium Travel, Mill, Other, Probable Foraging, Rest/Slow Travel, Surface Active Mill, Surface Active Travel, Unknown
beh_descBehavior Description SW = Norm Swim, CH = Charging, MI = Milling, BR = Breeching, FE =Feeding, LO = Logging, SA =SAG, DI = Diving, OT = Other
swim_dirInitial Group Heading Observed (e.g. 320, L, R, 33L, 6:00)
min_dispMinimum Dispersion (in body lengths)
max_dispMaximum Disperson (in body lengths)
min_cntMinimum Count
max_cntMaximum Count
best_countBest Count
min_calvesMinimum Number of Calves
leg_typeType of leg currently being flown
lbftLeft beaufort (copied from Effort/Env)
rbftRight beaufort (copied from Effort/Env)
photosWhether or not photos were taken
circlingWhether or not this sighting was circled.
gps_alt_ftGPS Altitude at time of sighting
bearing_absAbsolute Bearing to Sighting
init_grp_hdg_absInitial Group Heading
latitudeLatitude in decimal degrees
longitudeLongitude in decimal degrees
psd_kmPerpendicular Sighting Distance
depth_ftDepth (negative) or Elevation (positive) at Sighting Position
slopeSlope at Sighting Position
aspectSlope Aspect at Sighting Position
shore_dist_kmDistance to nearest shoreline from Sighting Position
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals1,297
Sea turtles474
Rays and sharks308
Other species632
Non spatial2
Non species356
Date, Begin2017-03-20
Date, End2020-02-16
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude38.55 - 41.08
Longitude-74.13 - -70.58
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
EffortYES (ID: 2210)
Traveled (km)156,602
Effort hours797
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