Dolphin sightings in the Bay

DolphinWatch is still growing

Since launching the app in 2017, we’ve seen a steady increase in registered users. In March 2023, the number of registered users surpassed 13,000. Join us! All you need to provide is your name and email address to setup an account. We use the email address to contact you about your sightings and occasionally provide important information about changes to the app. We do not share your information.

Every sighting counts

We are amazed by how many sightings we received in our first five years. Each year we receive about 1,200 sightings; however, in 2022 we received nearly 2,000 sightings. After our staff review each sighting using a data verification process, we confirm approximately 75% of those sightings. Each year dolphin sighting reports peak in July. In July 2022, we received 738 dolphin sightings.

We found dolphins in most of Chesapeake Bay

In 2017 and 2018 dolphin sightings were seasonally stratified in Chesapeake Bay, meaning that dolphins were seen in different portions of the bay in different months.

Dolphins were reported in the Lower Bay nearly year-round. The Lower Bay is considered to be the portion of Chesapeake Bay from the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean to the Maryland-Virginia state line, including the Rappahannock, Piankatank, York, Poquoson, James, Nansemond, Elizabeth, and Lynnhaven rivers.

Middle Bay sightings were centralized in the warm months from May to September. Middle Bay is the portion of Chesapeake Bay from the Maryland-Virginia state line northwards to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (near Annapolis. Middle Bay includes Patuxent, Potomac, Choptank, and Wye rivers), as well as Eastern Bay.

Upper Bay sightings were primarily June to July. The Upper Bay is the portion of Chesapeake Bay north of the Bay Bridge (near Annapolis) including the Chester and Patapsco Rivers. In 2018 we saw a large number of sightings in the Chester River and near the Bay Bridge. 

2017 map of verified dolphin sightings

Dr. Helen Bailey and her Chesapeake DolphinWatch team compiled the results of all your sightings in 2017 of dolphins in Chesapeake Bay. Watch the results.

Want to learn more?

Dive into a recording of Chesapeake DolphinWatch founder Helen Bailey's presentation at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, part of the OneNOAA Science Seminar series. The recording includes presentation slides, closed captioning, and Q&A from the audience.

Dr. Helen Bailey's Chesapeake DolphinWatch presentation

Watch a presentation by DolphinWatch founder Helen Bailey as part of Chesapeake Biological Laboratory's Science for Citizens series, and listen as she discusses the first summer of the project.