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Research

The Whale And Dolphin Research Center Of Cape May Is A New Jersey Non-Profit, Founded In 2016.

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To expand our research onboard, we founded the Whale and Dolphin Research Center of Cape May in 2016, now a 501c3 organization in 2023. Our mission is to promote the conservation of our marine mammals and their environment in Cape May, New Jersey through research, education, and outreach.

Photo-identification has furthered our knowledge of the seasonal migration, distribution, and abundance of both Humpback Whales and Bottlenose Dolphins off New Jersey. Bottlenose Dolphins are individually identified by their dorsal fin and Humpback Whales are identified by the undersides of their fluke fins, occasionally accompanied by a unique dorsal fin. In addition to photographs and GPS coordinates, our team is constantly recording data for weather and sea conditions, behaviors, group sizes, the presence of neonates, associations, surface intervals, and other specific case studies.

Since 2011, we have documented over 500 distinct individuals in our Cape May inshore coastal Bottlenose Dolphin catalog – and it’s always growing! Our catalog contributes to a larger database based out of Duke University and OBIS-SEAMAP, the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog. The MABDC is a long-term collaborative effort to gain a greater understanding of the stock structure and migration patterns of coastal dolphins in the Atlantic. The Northern Migratory stock utilizes New Jersey seasonally as their mating, nursery, and feeding ground.

a bird swimming in water next to the ocean

In addition to our coastal catalogs, we have also created pelagic catalogs with our offshore species observed on our 12hr and 24hr pelagic trips including Short-finned Pilot Whales, Risso’s Dolphins, Common Dolphins and Spotted Dolphins. 

a whale jumping out of the water

In New Jersey and all United States coastal waters, marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 that makes it illegal to hunt, harm, harass, feed or swim with any species. Additional species are also protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center is a part of a voluntary program, Whale SENSE, that trains all of our captains, naturalists and interns on the proper and respectful viewing techniques of marine mammals in the wild. We set the example by following all rules and regulations set forth by NOAA Fisheries Services and spread the message to recreational vessels. We believe this is extremely important and fully understand we are the visitors to their natural habitat. We always give our marine mammals the utmost courtesy and respect they deserve.