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Research & Education

By choosing Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, you are contributing directly to research and conservation efforts with the purchase of your ticket! For the past 45 years, our naturalists have participated in research and collected opportunistic data on our whale watch boats. This data has contributed to studies in the marine mammal field that has allowed us to better understand marine mammals and to better protect them.


On each trip our naturalists collect data and photographs of all the whales sighted. Collecting this data allows us to “track” whales over time with a technique called photo-identification. Humpback whales have a unique underside of their tail, which can vary from all black to all white, with many patterns in-between! Just as we are able to be identified by our fingerprints, each humpback has a unique tail pattern. When humpback whales go to dive, they bring their tail up and out of the water and give naturalists the opportunity to photograph their unique tail pattern to identify them!

Most of the humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine come back year after year and we know this because of photo-identification! Many of the humpback whales we see yearly return with newborn calves. Photographing individual whales and their calves each year helps to identify family relationships.

Photo-identification has allowed us to:

  • Keep track of the age of a particular whale (and eventually learn more about life-span!)
  • Learn about calving intervals
  • Discover migration grounds and patterns
  • Estimate abundance of the population
  • Develop family trees 

Once this scientific information is put into our database, it is then shared with other scientists, researchers, and organizations. Dolphin Fleet proudly contributes its data to the Gulf of Maine Humpback Whale Catalog curated by Center for Coastal Studies.

“Salt” the Humpback Whale


Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch has a unique history with one of the most well-known humpbacks in the world, “Salt”! The founder of Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, Aaron Avellar, named “Salt” after the white speckles on her dorsal fin. “Salt” was one of the very first named whales that could be individually identified. The tradition of naming humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine has continued since the 1970’s! 





Check out Salt’s Family Tree!
































Dolphin Fleet Whale Watches are unique! Unlike many other whale watches, our trips offers a wide spectrum of educational tools that go beyond the “average whale watch”. All trips are designed to enhance our awareness of whales,  marine life, and the marine habitat that surrounds us. Each trip is guided by a trained naturalist who will do a presentation on the whales you may see, their behavior, and information on the geology, flora, and fauna of Cape Cod! We have state of the art education materials to provide a better understanding and connection with the marine mammals you will be observing. 

Our goal is to have each passenger depart our vessels with a greater understanding and appreciation of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and the wealth of life it supports.