Near real-time Right Whale detection map (Massachusetts Bay)

Reading the map

This map provides the latest detections of endangered North Atlantic right whales in the busy waters of Massachusetts Bay--as reported by a network of detection buoys installed in January 2008.

  • Red whale icons indicate right whale detections within the last 24 hours
  • Black lines indicate the commercial shipping lanes into and out of Boston
  • The black outline is the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, an important area for whales.

Note: Right whales often leave Massachusetts Bay at the end of spring. If you don't see any whale detections on this map, see this archived map from April 2008.

The right whale listening network employs 13 "auto-detection buoys" that listen for calling whales day and night. The buoys record underwater sounds and analyze them as the sounds come in. When the onboard software detects a right whale call, the buoy makes a cell or satellite phone call to an analyst at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who verifies the information so it can be included in warnings sent to ships in the area (through channels such as the Northeast U.S. Right Whale Sighting Advisory System).

The buoys have an estimated listening radius of five nautical miles. The line of 10 buoys provides full coverage for a 55-mile stretch of the commercial shipping lanes into and out of Boston Harbor. Time from detection at the buoy to posting on this site can be as short as 20 minutes.

Right whales are large, slow-moving whales that can weigh up to 70 tons. There may be as few as 345 right whales remaining, and a leading cause of death is collisions with vessels. US law requires that all large vessels (vessels 65 ft and greater) slow to speeds of 10 knots (11.5 mph) or less in Seasonal Management Areas along the US east coast where where right whales are known to occur. For more information about mandatory and voluntary measures to reduce the risk of vessel collisions with right whales, please visit www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/shipstrike.