top of page

Sightings since the '70s

Want to explore this map, share it or use it in a project? Dive into it here.


Sightings by Region

Sightings by month

New sightings!

May 2024: Off the coast of California, in Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a North Pacific right whale was seen during an ACCESS Oceans survey onboard the NOAA ship Bell M Shimada. The whale was seen milling at the surface for 20 minutes, identifiable by its distinctive blow, no dorsal fin, and callosities. 

September 2023: The International Whaling Commission's whale survey, in collaboration with NOAA, spotted 4 North Pacific right whales in the Gulf of Alaska! One of the whales was previously unknown. Read about the survey efforts, acoustics, and sighting in NOAA's article about the work

March 2023: Monterey Bay Whale Watch was out on the morning of March 5th when they saw a North Pacific right whale in the southern part of Monterey Bay! They communicated with researchers and were able to get identifiable shots of the whale before it disappeared into the waves. Images are by naturalist Dane McDermott.

A North Pacific right whale surfaces in teal water, spray coming out of its blowhole and a gull flying behind it.
A right whale lifts its flipper above the water with sunlit sand dunes behind it.

Spotlight on the Spotters

Below are a few of the lucky people to have seen a North Pacific right whale! If you've seen one, and want to share your story, please reach out to us! We'd love to chat.


Likeke Goings

Date: May, 2020

Location: West coast of Vancouver Island, Canada

Likeke knew very little about right whales when he was standing on a container ship one afternoon in 2020. They were heading north to Anchorage and he saw the spray of water from a whale breath ahead of them. He ran out to capture it on video, and was lucky enough to have a few resources tucked into his back pocket to help him identify it: a chart of North Pacific whales on the wall of the bridge and a crewmember who knew a lot about marine life. “It was beautiful, it was wonderful,” he said about the sighting. He later reached out to scientists to confirm the sighting was indeed a right whale. Even months later, he stated that the experience “was exciting. It’s still exciting.”


Photo credit: Likeke Goings, the location of the ship at the time of the sighting, marked on a nautical chart.

Ed Bowlby

Date: May, 1992

Location: off the coast of Washington State

A large part of Ed’s career was spent freelancing on marine mammal surveys all over the world. On an aerial survey in 1992, Ed was looking out an airplane window when a whale was spotted a little off their current track. They decided to go check it out, and lo and behold it was a right whale. As they flew near it, the survey crew all conferred over their headsets, and determined that “yes! This is a North Pacific right whale!” The loud plane was disturbing the whale, so they didn’t stay to observe it for long, but Ed was enthusiastic about the sighting nonetheless, “especially on the Washington coast, it was nice to have that in our pocket.”

Paper published about the sighting: Rowlett, R.A., G.A. Green, C.E. Bowlby, and M. Smultea. 1994.  The first photographic documentation of a Northern Right Whale off Washington state.  Northwestern Naturalist. 75:102-104.

ship traffic

Boats in the Whales' range

There are shipping lanes throughout the North Pacific, and certain places like Unimak Pass in Alaska (where the most yellow and blue boats are on the left side of the map) are highways for both boats and right whales. Below is the ship traffic throughout the eastern North Pacific on January 18th, 2021. For real-time boat data, visit VesselFinder


Fishing Activity in the North Pacific

Global Fishing Watch tracks fishing activities across the globe, through ship trackers, databases and satellite images. 

Global Fishing Watch. 2022. ​

bottom of page