A: Alert authorities to important sightings

All marine mammals and most sea turtles are protected under federal law(s).  Reporting important sightings will help officials to monitor these protected populations.  What is considered an important sighting? See below for some examples.  Make sure for any sighting you note the location and take photos. If possible, stand by an animal in distress until authorities arrive.

To Report Injured, Dead or Entangled Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles in the Northeast US (Maine-Virginia), call NOAA’s hotline: 1-866- 755-6622. Other regions click here for hotline information. NOTE: sightings may always be reported to the US Coast Guard via VHF Ch. 16 


Whales and sea turtles that become entangled in fishing gear are at risk of severe injury and even death if they are unable to free themselves. There are permitted teams of researchers to carry out the highly dangerous task of attempted to free an animal from entanglement.  NOTE: You should NEVER attempt to remove any gear yourself due to risk of injury to both human and whale/sea turtle.   Entangled whales are known to thrash violently when they are in distress.

checkmark entangled
(image: Humpback entanglement line around the tail fluke)

Ebony entangled
(image: Humpback entanglement line over the dorsal fin)

Minke entangled

(image: minke whale entanglement netting around the mouth)


Being able to account for any dead animals will help make sure their population estimates are as accurate as possible.  For endangered species, every individual matters!  Depending on the condition, researchers may also want to do a necropsy (animal autopsy) to determine the cause of death and collect other samples.  If you see a dead animal, make sure you report the sighting.

WDC- Sapling dead copy
(image: dead humpback whale)
dead leatherback
(image: dead leatherback turtle)

Note: whales tend to float belly up when dead due to a build up of gases in their stomachs.


At least 1 in 10 humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine alone have scars from a collision with a vessel, however these collisions are hardly ever reported.  These strikes can have both short- and long-term impacts, ranging from blood loss and broken bones to chronic infections and even death. This is a threat to all whale species, and it is important for researchers to know when a strike has happened so that they can monitor the affected individual.  Often times a whale will have fresh injuries and scars from the spinning propeller of a vessel, as seen below.

Ganesh's 11 calf prop scars
A humpback whale with scars from a propeller.


North Atlantic right whales are a critically endangered species.  Each sighting gets added to a national database to better track their movements and allow researchers to advise on better protection measures.  Even if a right whale appears healthy and perfectly fine, we still want to know about it!

Sea to Shore Alliance, Permit 15488
Mother and calf right whale. Photo: Sea to Shore Alliance, Permit 15488

NOTE: It is illegal to approach a right whale within 500 yards (1,500ft). When maintaining this distance, your view of a right whale will look something like this: right whale view from 500yd

Where and when can you expect to see a right whale? The video below shows all available sightings in the US by month!


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