Dolphins & Porpoises

Dolphins and porpoises are at the top of the food chain and play an important role in the overall balance of the marine environment. They belong to a group of marine mammals called cetaceans. Marine mammals in the cetacean family include whales, dolphins, and porpoises. These animals are often referred to as “sentinels” of ocean health providing insight into marine ecosystem dynamics. Numerous studies have explored the effects of noise and chemical pollution, habitat degradation, and changes in climate on these animals.

Dolphins and porpoises tend to be social and live in groups. They exhibit complex methods of communication and echolocation making squeaks, buzzes, whistles, and clicks that can be heard from miles away. They are also thought to communicate by slapping the water’s surface with their tails or bodies. They range in size from the small, critically endangered vaquita porpoise to the iconic killer whale—the largest member of the Delphinidae, or dolphin family.

All dolphins and porpoises are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and some are also listed under the Endangered Species Act. Together with our partners, we work to study, protect, and conserve these fascinating species and their habitats.


Species News

A harbor seal is released from a crate on a beach in New Hampshire. Several people watch from beyond the cordoned off area Release of a rehabilitated harbor seal rescued in Rye, New Hampshire by Prescott Grant recipient Seacoast Science Center. Credit: Seacoast Science Center.
Stranding Network members perform an animal autopsy on a stranded gray whale that lies within a sectioned off area of the beach. A team of scientists from The Marine Mammal Center and the California Academy of Sciences perform a necropsy on a stranded gray whale at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Photo: Katie D’Innocenzo/The Marine Mammal Center.
A dolphin interacts with a woman at the edge of its large aquarium pool habitat A trainer works with a dolphin during a breathing session at the National Aquarium. Credit: Henley Moore, National Aquarium.
Dorsal fins of two porpoises swimming in water Two harbor porpoises swimming in waters of Southeastern Alaska. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.

Research

Peer-Reviewed Research

Publications by Northeast Passive Acoustic Research Staff

Our staff regularly publish their findings in scientific journals and Center-produced documents…

Borrow from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center Gear Library

The gear library is a collection of on-demand or “ropeless” systems, built with help and donations from environmental and academic organizations, that we lend to fishermen for testing.

Protected Species Gear Research

We work closely with the commercial fishing industry to reduce harmful interactions with marine mammals, turtles, and other protected species.

Developing Viable On-Demand Gear Systems

On-Demand gear development at the Center continues to evolve with the help of industry.

Understanding Sound in the Ocean

Levels of underwater noise from human activities—including from ships, sonar, and drilling—have increased dramatically.

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