Allied Whale


Mission Statement

Allied Whale promotes understanding and preservation of marine mammals by conducting research for the effective conservation of marine mammal populations and their habitats, and educating students and the public about marine mammal conservation. Allied Whale remains dedicated to collaborative research and the international exchange of scientific information.


Allied Whale, founded in 1972 by College of the Atlantic faculty, staff, and students, is one of the oldest marine mammal research organizations in the eastern United States, and is dedicated to collaborative research, the maintenance of whale identification catalogues, and marine mammal stranding response. Allied Whale was a pioneer in the use of photo-identification techniques to identify and track whales, and maintains current identification catalogues for the North American Humpback Whale, North Atlantic Fin Whale, and Antarctic Humpback Whale. Allied Whale is the federally designated Marine Mammal Stranding program for the northern Maine coast. Each year, Allied Whale responds to more than 100 pinnipeds (harbor, gray, harp and hooded seals) and cetaceans (various species of dolphin, harbor porpoises and larger whales) stranded on Maine’s shores

Program Details

Field Research
Allied Whale is recognized as a leader in the development of techniques used by whale biologists worldwide. Allied Whale student researchers do profession-level field-based (and by that, we mean “ocean-based”) research in the Gulf of Maine and around the world. Our researchers’ studies take them to Canada (finback, humpback and right whales in the Bay of Fundy, finbacks off Nova Scotia in winter, and humpbacks off Newfoundland), the Antarctic (humpback whales), New Zealand (Hector’s dolphins), Dominican Republic (humpback whale breeding and calving ground), and Bermuda (humpback whale migration). Many COA graduates go on to become prominent marine mammal scientists, managers and educators.
Allied Whale has been using photographic identification (photo-id) techniques to study humpback and finback whales for over 40 years, and houses the largest collection in the world of information on photo-identified humpback and finback whales. Allied Whale researchers were among the first to successfully use this technique to study whales. Photo-ID is a technique that enables scientists to follow an individual whale anywhere it may travel throughout its life by comparing natural color patterns, fin shapes, and other distinguishing marks that appear in photographs. Each species and area has its own photographic catalogue and database.
North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue
In 1977, Allied Whale published the first North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalogue. The first catalogue contained 120 individual humpback whales. The current catalogue contains over 8,000 animals from all known feeding and breeding/calving grounds in the North Atlantic Ocean.
North Atlantic Fin Whale Catalogue
In 1981, biologists from Allied Whale began a project to identify individual finback whales photographically. The North Atlantic Finback Whale Catalogue contains photographs of over 800 individuals.
Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalogue
Allied Whale leads this international project, investigating movements of humpback whales between the Southern Ocean and lower latitude waters.
Years of the North Atlantic Humpback
Allied Whale was a leader in this international project conceived to address large-scale issues: the size and structure of the population, vital rates, migratory movement, and the structure of the mating system.
Marine Mammal Strandings
Since 1979, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries office has designated Allied Whale’s Marine Mammal Stranding Program the official responder to marine mammal stranding events on the Maine coast from Rockland to Canada. As an active member of the Greater Atlantic Regional Stranding Network and the Maine Strandings Collaborative, Allied Whale is obligated to aid any stranded marine mammal as quickly and efficiently as possible, while protecting the public from any potential dangers. The coverage area features 2,600 miles of indented and highly fragmented coastline, and includes a myriad of islands in between.
Team members often travel several hours to respond to a stranded animal and transport the animal to an out-of-state rehabilitation facility. Allied Whale relies on a network of volunteers along the coast - members of the public and a variety of government agencies - who recognize and respond to stranding events in a timely manner. Allied Whale provides training for 30-40 volunteers at two workshops each year, and more than 50 volunteers are available at any given time to respond to strandings.
In any one year, more than 100 pinnipeds (harbor, gray, harp, and hooded seals) and cetaceans (various species of dolphin, harbor porpoises and larger whales) strand on Maine shorelines. Some of the whale species are classified as “Endangered” and all are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Maine experiences perhaps the highest annual number of seal strandings anywhere on the U.S. eastern shoreline, a statistic associated with these species’ use of the rocky and remote coastline for haul-outs and breeding colonies. Allied Whale typically responds to strandings of harbor seal pups in spring and summer, and harp and hooded seals—collectively known as the “ice seals”—during the winter months. Allied Whale responds to stranded grey seals adults and juveniles in the summer, and the pups in winter—as pupping time occurs between December and February.

Primary Issue
Climate Change
Secondary Issue
Allied Whale: College of the Atlantic
Bar Harbor, ME 04609
United States
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