Factsheet: Cetaceans | WWF
Factsheet: Cetaceans

Posted on 08 March 2006

Despite decades of legal protection, 7 of the 13 great whale species are still endangered or vulnerable, as are a further 17 small whale, dolphin, and porpoise species or populations. Direct hunting and bycatch remain the greatest threats to the survival of these graceful aquatic mammals.

Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are powerful symbols of our oceans. By the end of the 20th century, however, many populations had been decimated by systematic hunting, accidental capture in fishing nets (bycatch), habitat degradation, and other human activities.

Despite decades of legal protection, 7 of the 13 great whale species are still endangered or vulnerable, as are a further 17 small whale, dolphin, and porpoise species or populations. Direct hunting and bycatch remain the greatest threats to the survival of these graceful aquatic mammals.

WWF considers cetaceans 'flagship species' - that is, charismatic representatives of the biodiversity of the complex ecosystems they inhabit. Conserving these animals and their habitats will also help many other species.

In 2005, WWF launched its Cetacean Species Action Plan, the first global conservation plan for all cetaceans.

The ultimate aim is for viable populations of all cetacean species to occupy their full historical range and fulfill their role in maintaining the integrity of marine and freshwater ecosystems. As an initial goal, WWF aims to ensure that current threats to critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable cetacean populations are significantly reduced by 2012.

Humpback whale.
Humpback whale (Megaloptera novanglie).
© Fundación Yubarta