False Killer Whale

Endangered Whales

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: various species (see table below)
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Cetacea
FAMILY:  
GENUS SPECIES: various species (see table below)

FUN FACTS

Endangered Whales of the World
The mammalian order Cetacea contains more than 70 species of whales and dolphins. Most have been affected by human activities to some extent, and several have experienced profound population declines in the last century. But which are endangered? This subject is often a source of confusion.
1. Whalers targeted the great whales.
Most species of baleen whales (suborder Mysticeti) have been severely depleted. Their current status is due largely to commercial whaling, which took place during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Of the 11 species, nine currently have population estimates far below pre-whaling numbers. Recent population estimates for the blue and right whales total a small fraction of their numbers just over 100 years ago. See population and status table.
2. Toothed whales face threats, too.
Conservation efforts focused on baleen whales for so long that most people didn’t realize some of the smaller toothed whales (suborder Odontoceti) were faring far worse. (See Whale Species Populations and Status table.) The baiji, a native of China’s Yangtze River, is dangerously close to extinction. With only about 300 baiji remaining, conservation efforts may be too late. Large-scale threats to toothed whales include hunting, incidental entanglement, habitat destruction, and pollution.
3. Are all whales endangered?
No. Though there is valid concern for several whale species, not all whale populations are endangered or threatened. Killer whales are not endangered. Though hundreds of dolphins and porpoises still drown in fishing nets, the impact on most populations appears to be minimal. However, if recent trends in human impact continue, even these relatively stable populations may begin to lose ground.
4. Preservation is priority.
In 1946, 14 whaling nations formed the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to manage whale stocks and make recommendations on hunting limits. Originally developed as a whaling commission, the IWC (now also represented by nonwhaling nations) has become a conservation commission. In 1986, the IWC declared a moratorium on commercial whaling, hoping to allow whale populations to recover. The IWC has no means by which to enforce the moratorium, however, and whaling nations sometimes threaten to disregard it.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) of 1972 banned the hunting of marine mammals in U.S. waters. The main objective of the MMPA is to maintain the stability of marine mammal populations and marine ecosystems.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty developed to regulate trade in certain wildlife species. CITES protects all species of whales.

Certain whale species, including six baleen whales and four toothed whales, are also protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). See Whale Species Populations and Status table.

In addition to legislation protecting whales from exploitation, laws to modify commercial fishing techniques (to reduce entanglements) and laws to reduce industrial emissions were also recently established.
5. Zoological parks respond.
Scientists are working diligently to develop breeding techniques in zoological parks. Their objective is to preserve small whale species that face extinction. Toward that end, the study of whales and dolphins in zoological parks is a valuable research tool. Physiological, reproductive, and growth rate data may eventually prove to be significant in preserving endangered species.
6. Can whales rebound?
Future survival looks uncertain for some whale species, but we have seen glimmers of hope. One such success story features the California gray whale, twice hunted to the brink of extinction during peak whaling years. Legally protected since 1946, gray whales have made an astonishing comeback. Gray whales currently number about 21,000, an estimate scientists believe matches the pre-whaling population. California gray whales were removed from the Endangered Species List in 1993.
7. Can whales rebound?
Future survival looks uncertain for some whale species, but we have seen glimmers of hope. One such success story features the California gray whale, twice hunted to the brink of extinction during peak whaling years. Legally protected since 1946, gray whales have made an astonishing comeback. Gray whales currently number about 21,000, an estimate scientists believe matches the pre-whaling population. California gray whales were removed from the Endangered Species List in 1993.

By wisely managing our resources now, it’s possible for more whale and dolphin species, like the gray whale, to make phenomenal recoveries.

Whale Species Population and Status

This table includes cetaceans species known to be endangered, as well as species whose status is less clearly understood. Though several are not officially listed as endangered, fewer sightings have prompted concern about their status. These figures are estimates; accurate figures are difficult to obtain.
species population status and listings*
northern right whale 500-1,000 endangered (ESA, IUCN)
southern right whale 3,000 endangered (ESA); vulunerable (IUCN)
bowhead whale 8,000 endangered (ESA, IUCN)
blue whale 10,000-14,000 endangered (ESA, IUCN)
fin whale 120,000-150,000 endangered (ESA); vulnerable (IUCN)
sei whale 50,000 endangered (ESA)
humpback whale 10,000+ endangered (ESA, IUCN)
sperm whale 200,000 endangered (ESA)
vaquita a few hundred endangered (ESA)
baiji about 300 endangered (ESA, IUCN)
Indus susu 500 endangered (ESA, IUCN)
Ganges susu unknown vulnerable (IUCN)
boto unknown; thought to be declining vulnerable (IUCN)
franciscana unknown not listed
tucuxi unknown not listed
Hector's dolphin 3,000-4,000 vulnerable (IUCN)
Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin unknown; thought to be depleted not listed
Atlantic humpbacked dolphin unknown, but depleted not listed

 

* "ESA" denotes listing according to the Endangered Species Act. "IUCN" denotes listing according to the IUCN/World Conservation Union Red Databook.