The Sightings database contains records of thousands of sightings of right whales in the North Atlantic Ocean, as well as sightings of many other species of whales, dolphins, sea turtles, seals, and large fishes. It also contains survey data associated with many of these sightings that allow quantification of associated survey effort (note that the database does not include interpreted effort data as such). Though most sightings in the Sightings database are from surveys conducted from the late 1970's to the present, some right whale historical records go back as far as the 18th Century. The sightings contained in the database come from a wide variety of contributors both Consortium members and others. Each record in the Sightings database represents a group of whales (i.e., a group of 3 whales has a single record just as a group of 1 does) and there may or may not be photographic proof of a given right whale sighting.
The Sightings and Identification databases are periodically cross-referenced, so that individual identification data from the latter can be linked to sighting data from the former. For that reason, all sightings in the Identification database are eventually included in the Sightings database (with an approximate 1-year lag). Although the animals' identifications are not included in the Sightings database, the two databases can be linked on common fields.