NEFSC Right Whale Aerial Survey

NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC)

Dataset credit

Protected Species Branch, Northeast Fisheries Science Center, NOAA/NMFS


Primary contact Tim Cole NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Secondary contact Christin Khan NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Secondary contact Alison Ogilvie NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Data entry Ei Fujioka Duke University



The North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Survey (NARWSS) is a NOAA Fisheries program which locates and records the seasonal distribution of right whales off the northeastern United States.


not provided

Supplemental information

2024-01-18: The 2023 data (Oct through Dec) were appended.
2023-11-06: The 2023 data (Jan through Sep) were appended.
2023-02-08: The 2022 data (Oct through Dec) were appended.
2022-08-31: The 2022 data (Feb through Aug) were appended.
2022-02-03: The 2021 data were appended.
2021-06-22: The 2020 data were appended.
2020-12-30: The 2018-19 data were appended.
2019-10-30: The date/time of the 2017 data were corrected (initially they were at UTC. Now they are at local time zone as other records are).
2019-09-13: The 2017 data were appended.
2017-03-10: Data format was changed and the 2016 data were appended.
2016-06-09: 2015 Nov-Dec data were appended.
2016-03-08: 2015 Jan-Aug data were appended.
The following two records got the animal count corrected.
- Right whale 06/03/02 16:58:20 0 -> 3
- Basking shark 06/20/03 17:52:03 0 => 1 (dead shark)
2015-05-06: 2013 winter and 2014 data were appended.
2015-03-24: A few records had a wrong animal count of zero. The value is replaced with a blank representing species presence only.
2014-08-11: Sightings originally identified as 'CWDO' and not included in the dataset were reclassified as 'UNCW' (common or white-sided dolphin) and now are included.
2014-02-27: Data in 2013 Jan through July were appended.
2013-12-18: The count field for the following two records were updated:
Right whale 2002-06-03 16:58:20: Null (previously a zero)
Basking shark 2003-06-20 17:52:03: 1 (previously a zero)
2013-03-04: Upon provider's request, right whale sightings with all psb_legstage flags except '9' were dropped to avoid potential re-sightings to be mapped.
psb_legstage, a hidden attribute, is a flag indicating the stage of watch. The value of '9' indicates a final estimate of right whales after the animals were first sighted.
2013-01-22: 2012 data were appended.
Data format for the 2007-2011 data was changed from the Consortium format to the NEFSC original format.
2012-09-24: The dataset name was changed from NEFSC Right Whale Survey to NEFSC Right Whale Aerial Survey to distinguish this from the associated vessel survey.
2012-06-25: Data correction: STDO was classified as Stenella coeruleoalba (previously as Stenella attenuata/frontalis).
2012-06-20: 2011 data were added.
Data correction 2/8/11: Records with LETU sightings were incorrectly associated with Softshell turtles (ITIS TSN: 173845) and was corrected as leatherback sea turtles (ITIS TSN: 173843)

Other references:
Khan C, Cole TVN, Duley P, Glass AH, Niemeyer M, Christman C. 2009. North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Survey (NARWSS) and Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (RWSAS) 2008 Results Summary. US Dept Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc. 09-05; 7 p.

Niemeyer, M., T.V.N. Cole, C.L. Christman, P. Duley and A.H. Glass. 2008. North Atlantic Right Whale Sighting Survey (NARWSS) and Right Whale Sighting Advisory System (RWSAS) 2007 results summary. Northeast Fisheries Science Center Reference Document. 08-06; 6 p.

Cole TVN, Gerrior P, Merrick RL. 2007. Methodologies of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service aerial survey program for right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) in the Northeast U.S., 1998-2006. US Dep Commer, Northeast Fish Sci Cent Ref Doc 07-02; 11 p.




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)
iddefinition not provided
planeType of plane
date_localDate of the sighting in local time zone
time_localTime of the sighting in local time zone
event_numberEvent number
flight_typeSurvey type code. Code descriptions available upon request.
latitudeLatitude in decimal degrees
longitudeLongitude in decimal degrees
legtypeSurvey line type code. Code descriptions available upon request.
legstageSurvey watch stage code. Code descriptions available upon request.
psb_legstageSurvey watch stage code. Code descriptions available upon request.
altitudeAltitude in feet
headingPlatform heading (degrees)
speedPlatform speed (knots)
sst_cSea surface temperature in celsius
beaufortBeaufort sea state
visibilty_codeVisibility code
visibilty_nmVisibility in nautical miles
cloud_codeCloud code
cloud_percentCloud cover as a percentage.
glare_lGlare at the left side
glare_rGlare at the right side
quality_lQuality at the left side
quality_rQuality at the right side
id_reliabilityReliability of species identification
sighting_numberSighting number
spcodeSpecies code
group_sizeGroup size
calvesThenumber of calves
actual_headingActual heading in degrees
relative_headingRelative heading
observerObserver initials
angleDeclination angle (0-90 degrees) of sighting available upon provider persmission
cueSighting cue
b1_final_codedefinition not provided
b2_final_codedefinition not provided
b3_final_codedefinition not provided
b4_final_codedefinition not provided
b5_final_codedefinition not provided
photosIs a photo taken: yes=2 no=1
effort_commentsComments on effort
sighting_commentsComments on sighting
edit1Changes made by the 1st editor
edit2Changes made by the 2nd editor
edit3Changes made by the 3rd editor
misc_edit1definition not provided
misc_edit2definition not provided
misc_edit3definition not provided
misc_edit4Changes made by an editor
sp_tsnITIS taxonomic serial number. This field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals39,826
Sea turtles272
Rays and sharks5,202
Other species3,626
Non spatial1
Non species54,316
Date, Begin1998-05-14
Date, End2023-12-20
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude36.75 - 50.15
Longitude-76.04 - -58.09
Coord. prec.5 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
EffortYES (ID: 514)
Traveled (km)0
Effort hours6,414
Contr. through
Sharing policy CC0 no rights reserved
Shared with OBIS
GBIF (via DOI)
See metadata in static HTML
See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics