WhaleWatch is a NASA-funded project coordinated by NOAA Fisheries' West Coast Region to help reduce human impacts on whales by providing near real-time information on where they occur and hence where whales may be most at risk from threats, such as ship strikes, entanglements and loud underwater sounds. These model estimates were developed from habitat-based models of whale occurrence that combine satellite tracking of whales with information on the environment.

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This month’s model estimates for Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) off the U.S. West Coast:

Lower, Average, and Upper estimates represent the range of relative likelihood of blue whale presence from 0 (low) to 100 (high). Average density (# whales per 25km x 25km grid cell) is included on the far right.

Model developed by Hazen et al. (2016)

Values are per 25 x 25 km (approximately 13 x 13 nmile). Red colors represent higher occurrence and blue lower values. It should be noted that these predictions are only estimates based on the models developed from historical data and do not represent actual recorded sightings or current densities. In this version, the model predictions are based on monthly products of the environmental data.


WhaleWatch is an automated tool that uses advanced technologies to predict where blue whales are likely to be in near real-time. Whales were tagged with Argos satellite transmitters and tracked as they moved from the eastern central Pacific breeding grounds to their feeding grounds off the U.S. West Coast. The whale locations were combined with environmental data collected via satellites, including water temperature, chlorophyll concentrations, and other ocean features. The relationship between whales and the environment was then used to predict the chance of blue whale occurrence and likely densities across the modeled areas. This is calculated based on current ocean conditions to provide the near real-time maps.

This research has been conducted by a multi-institutional team of academic groups and governmental organizations led by Helen Bailey (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science) and in collaboration with the NOAA/NMFS West Coast Regional Office. The satellite telemetry data on whales were collected by Bruce Mate and colleagues (Oregon State University), geo-spatial distribution by Ladd Irvine (OSU), habitat modeling by Daniel Palacios (OSU), Elliott Hazen, Steven Bograd, Karin Forney (NOAA/NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center), and the web tool created by Evan Howell and Aimee Hoover (NOAA/NMFS Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center).

Funding for this project was provided under the interagency NASA, USGS, National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Smithsonian Institution Climate and Biological Response program, Grant Number NNX11AP71G. Funding for whale tagging was provided by the Office of Naval Research, the Marine Mammal Institute at OSU, and the Sloan, Packard and Moore Foundations to the Tagging of Pacific Predators Program.

For more information on WhaleWatch please contact Helen Bailey.