The plight of cetaceans is exemplified by the rapid decline of the vaquita in Mexico, a species on the verge of extinction with fewer than 30 individuals remaining. In 2008 an estimated minimum of 300,000 whales and dolphins were killed each year as a result of fisheries bycatch, a number which has likely doubled in the past 10 years, especially when deaths from shipping and habitat loss are also considered.
The word "cetacean" is from the Latin "cetus", which means large sea creature. It refers to the over 80 species of marine mammals that include all whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
WWF have been actively protecting whales and dolphins for 50 years. In 1984 we helped to convince the world to stop commercial whaling. In 2016, we were part of a coalition that resulted in the declaration of the Ross Sea Sanctuary, which protects over one and half million square km of important whale feeding habitat in the Antarctic. We work with dozens of local marine NGOs such as Prodelphinus in Peru, multiple international NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society, and several intergovernmental organisations such as the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on Migratory Species.
Our coalition wants a new deal for whales and dolphins - one that drastically reduces needless mortality. This new deal focuses on the most pressing threats to cetaceans by tackling the obstacles to progress that are common to most cetacean conservation efforts. We seek to facilitate, to enable and to add value to the work of WWF offices around the world, as well as other stakeholders working on cetacean conservation.
Our global approach focuses on:
- Collaboration with complementary initiatives by other international bodies;
- Provision of evidence and tools that (WWF) practitioners and their partners in coastal locations around the globe can use to protect critical cetacean habitat and better mitigate the most pressing threats facing cetacean populations today; and
- Advocacy with targeted stakeholders to promote greater awareness of cetacean conservation issues and integration of best practice into policy and regulation.
Through this approach, we will support and strengthen ongoing WWF-led cetacean conservation projects, and create the enabling conditions to have an impact at scale on the three main areas of bycatch, shipping, and protection of critical habitats.
Click here to view an interactive map of our cetacean work across the world.