This map shows data for a cetacean species and was developed by the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab (MGEL) at Duke University through a partnership with the Marine-life Data and Analysis Team (MDAT). MDAT collaborated with the Northeast Regional Ocean Council and expert work groups to produce maps characterizing the predicted distribution and abundance of cetacean species or species guilds, or bird species; or the surveyed biomass of fish species. MGEL worked with marine mammal biologists and ecologists at the NOAA Northeast and Southeast Fisheries Science Centers and several other research institutions to create habitat-based density surface models for cetaceans occurring off the US East Coast. The results of this work have been published in Roberts et al. (2016), with updates documented in Roberts et al. (2023).

Data Considerations

Some of the MDAT maps contain information about federally protected species. Additional information about the distribution, abundance, and range of species listed under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is available at:

Details about each individual model can be found here, along with some animations and answers to frequently asked questions. The MDAT Technical Report on the Methods and Development of Marine-life Data summarizes additional aspects of the models that may be important to users of Northeast Ocean Data.

These maps represent one set of many available sources of information that inform our current understanding of species distribution and abundance in the Northeast region. Other sources of information on marine mammal species that complement the data shown here include:

A more complete listing of additional data sources for marine mammals in the context of ocean planning can be found in the Northeast Ocean Plan, Appendix 2.


Any use of the cetacean maps and data in this viewer should be accompanied by the following citations:

Roberts J.J., B.D. Best, L. Mannocci, E. Fujioka, P.N. Halpin, D.L. Palka, L.P. Garrison, K.D. Mullin, T.V.N. Cole, C.B. Khan, W.M. McLellan, D.A. Pabst, and G.G. Lockhart. 2016. Habitat-based cetacean density models for the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Scientific Reports 6: 22615. doi: 10.1038/srep22615.

Roberts JJ, Yack TM, Halpin PN (2023) Marine mammal density models for the U.S. NavyAtlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) study area for the Phase IV Navy Marine SpeciesDensity Database (NMSDD). Document version 1.3. Report prepared for Naval FacilitiesEngineering Systems Command, Atlantic by the Duke University Marine Geospatial EcologyLab, Durham, North Carolina

Curtice C., J. Cleary, E. Shumchenia, and P.N. Halpin. 2019. Marine-life Data and Analysis Team (MDAT) Technical Report on the Methods and Development of Marine-life Data to Support Regional Ocean Planning and Management. Prepared on behalf of the Marine-life Data and Analysis Team (MDAT). Accessed at: http://seamap.env.duke.edu/models/MDAT/MDAT-Technical-Report.pdf.

Marine-life Data Analysis Team (MDAT; Patrick Halpin, Earvin Balderama, Jesse Cleary, Corrie Curtice, Michael Fogarty, Brian Kinlan, Charles Perretti, Jason Roberts, Emily Shumchenia, Arliss Winship). Marine life summary data products for Northeast ocean planning. Version 2.0. Northeast Ocean Data. http://northeastoceandata.org. Accessed MM/DD/YYYY.


Source: Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab (MGEL) at Duke University. This product was developed by MGEL in collaboration with colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW), the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center (VAMSC), the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society. It was derived from habitat-based density models for cetaceans built from shipboard and aerial line transect surveys conducted at sea over more than two decades by the NMFS Northeast and Southeast Fisheries Science Centers, UNCW, VAMSC, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, HDR Incorporated, Marine Conservation Research, FWRI, New England Aquarium, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and TetraTech, Incorporated, and Wildlife Trust / EcoHealth Alliance / Sea to Shore Alliance. The UNCW surveys were funded by U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Command and NOAA. VAMSC surveys in Virginia were funded by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program at the Department of Environmental Quality through Task 1 of Grant NA12NOS4190027 and Task 95.02 of Grant NA13NOS4190135 from NOAA, under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended. The southeast U.S. right whale surveys were funded by NOAA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the South Carolina State Port Authority, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Funding for this project was provided by United States Fleet Forces Command and was managed on their behalf by Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Atlantic. Development of the model for North Atlantic right whale was co-funded by NOAA under a cooperative research agreement. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Councils provided funding for summary product creation and data hosting services. For more information, please contact Jason Roberts (jason.roberts@duke.edu).


These products were revised according to agency and public feedback and were posted on the Northeast Ocean Data Portal in August 2018 and May 2023. These products will be updated as described in the 2016 Northeast Ocean Plan.