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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

Right Whale Recognition Challenge

Build a system to identify endangered right whales in aerial photographs

Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $10,000
Type of Challenge: Scientific
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: MathWorks, New England Aquarium
Submission Start: 08/27/2015 12:00 AM ET
Submission End: 12/31/2015 11:59 PM ET

This challenge is externally hosted.

You can view the challenge details here:


With fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales left in the world's oceans, knowing the health and status of each whale is integral to the efforts of researchers working to protect the species from extinction. Currently, only a handful of very experienced researchers can identify individual whales on sight while out on the water. For the majority of researchers, identifying individual whales takes time, making it difficult to effectively target whales for biological samples, acoustic recordings, and necessary health assessments. To track and monitor the population, right whales are photographed during aerial surveys and then manually matched to an online photo-identification catalog. Customized software has been developed to aid in this process, but this still relies on a manual inspection of the potential comparisons, and there is a lag time for those images to be incorporated into the database. The current identification process is extremely time consuming and requires special training. This constrains marine biologists, who work under tight deadlines with limited budgets. This competition challenges you to automate the right whale recognition process using a dataset of aerial photographs of individual whales. Automating the identification of right whales would allow researchers to better focus on their conservation efforts. Recognizing a whale in real-time would also give researchers on the water access to potentially life-saving historical health and entanglement records as they struggle to free a whale that has been accidentally caught up in fishing gear. For more on challenge submissions, rules and an award timeline, visit the official Right Whale Recognition Challenge website.


First Place
Cash Prize Amount: $5000

Second Place
Cash Prize Amount: $3000

Third Place
Cash Prize Amount: $2000