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NOAA Fisheries
Office of Protected Resources
Acropora palmata thicket on Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Andy Bruckner, 1996Coho salmon painting, Canadian Dept of Fisheries and OceansMonk seal, C.E. BowlbyHumpback whale, Dr. Lou Herman
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Species
Marine Mammals
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Cetaceans: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

 

Celebrating over 40 years of
protecting marine mammals!


Killer whale swimming
Killer whale
(Orcinus orca)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center


North Atlantic right whales
North Atlantic Right whales
(Eubalaena glacialis)
Photo: NOAA


Bottlenose Dolphin jumping out of water
Bottlenose dolphin
(Tursiops truncatus)
Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center


Fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus
Fin whale
(Balaenoptera physaluse)
Photo: NOAA

Balaenoptera borealis-edeni
Bryde's whale
(Balaenoptera
borealis-edeni)

Photo: NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center

Humpback whale
Humpback whale
(Megaptera novaengliae)
Photo: NOAA


beluga whale
Beluga whale
(Delphinapterus leucas)
Photo: NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory

After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Dr. Brian Stacy, a NOAA veterinarian, cleans a young Kemp's ridley turtle aboard vessel before the captured turtles were taken to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans for rehabilitation. (photo courtesy NOAA, Florida FWCC)
Dr. Brian Stacy, NOAA veterinarian, cleans a young Kemp's ridley turtle
Photo: NOAA/FWCC

· Sea Turtles, Dolphins, and Whales and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

· Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA)

 

Overview
Cetaceans are relatively large, generally characterized by streamlined bodies that glide easily through the marine environment. Approximately 78 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises are included in the Order Cetacea.

Cetaceans are broken into two Suborders, or main groups:

  1. Mysticeti (baleen whales)
  2. Odontoceti (toothed whales)

There are 11 species of baleen whales and 67 species of toothed whales.

Status of Cetacean Species
All cetaceans are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA); some may be designated as "depleted" under the MMPA. Endangered and threatened cetaceans are further protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The table below includes cetaceans found in U.S. waters and endangered/threatened foreign species. Note: Species listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA are, by default, also considered "depleted" under the MMPA.

(E = "endangered"; P = "proposed"; D = "depleted"; C = "candidate"; S = "species of concern"; DL = "delisted"; F = "foreign")

Species Status
 
 
 
  • Cook Inlet
E
 
E
  • Western North Atlantic coastal
D
  • Fiordland
C
E
 
E (F)
 
 
 
 
 
  • Main Hawaiian Islands Insular
E
E
 
 
  • Western North Pacific
E (F)
  • Eastern North Pacific
DL
E (F)
 
  • Baltic Sea
C
C
E
  • Eastern Taiwan Strait
C
E (F)
  • Southern Resident
E
  • AT1 transient
D
 
 
 
 
 
 
E
E
 
 
 


D
 
 
 
 
E
 
 
E (F)
 
E
  • Eastern
D
 
 
 
 

Main factors for decline
Almost all species of baleen whales were exploited by the commercial whaling industry from the 1700s to the mid-1900s; most populations have not yet recovered. Currently, ship strikes pose a threat to many baleen whales, particularly the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale. Additionally, entanglement in various types of fishing gear is a primary threat to several species of cetaceans.

More Information:

Updated: May 13, 2014

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