Management Overview

The sei whale is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act [link to: ESA subpage]. It was originally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act, the precursor to the ESA, in June, 1970. The species is also designated as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Recovery Planning and Implementation

Recovery Action

Recovery Action Under the ESA, NOAA Fisheries develops and implements recovery plans for the conservation and survival of listed species. The Recovery Plan for the Sei Whale was published in December 2011. The plan aims to recover the species, with an interim goal of down-listing the sei whale status from "endangered" to "threatened."

The major actions recommended in the plan are:

  • Reduce or eliminate injury or mortality caused by ship collision.
  • Reduce or eliminate injury and mortality caused by fisheries and fishing gear.
  • Protect habitats essential to the survival and recovery of sei whales.
  • Minimize effects of vessel disturbance.
  • Continue international ban on hunting and other directed take.
  • Monitor the population size and trends in abundance.
  • Maximize efforts to free entangled or stranded sei whales.
  • Acquire scientific information from dead specimens.

Learn more about the recovery plan for sei whales

A sei whale feeding.

A sei whale seen feeding during a NOAA survey in 2014. Photo: NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center/Christin Khan.


NOAA Fisheries is working to minimize effects from human activities that are detrimental to the recovery of sei whale populations in the United States and internationally. Together with our partners, we support the goals of the sei whale recovery plan, with the ultimate goal of delisting the species.

Conservation Efforts

Reducing Vessel Strikes

Collisions between whales and large vessels can injure or kill the whales and damage the vessels, but strikes often go unnoticed and unreported. The most effective way to reduce collision risk is to keep whales and vessels away from one another. If this is not possible, second best is for vessels to slow down and keep a lookout.

Learn more about reducing vessel strikes

Addressing Ocean Noise

Underwater noise may threaten sei whales by interrupting their normal behavior and driving them away from areas important to their survival. Mounting evidence suggests that exposure to intense underwater sound may cause some whales to strand and ultimately die. NOAA Fisheries is investigating acoustic communication and hearing in marine animals, as well as the effects of sound on whale behavior and hearing. In 2016, we issued technical guidance for assessing the effects of anthropogenic sound on marine mammals’ hearing.

Learn more about ocean noise

Overseeing Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response

We work with volunteer networks in coastal states to respond to marine mammal strandings. When stranded animals are found alive, NOAA Fisheries and our partners assess the animal’s health and try to return it to the water. When stranded animals are found dead, our scientists work to understand and investigate the cause of death. NOAA Fisheries also responds to marine mammals entangled in fishing gear or other lines or debris and, when feasible, attempts disentanglement.

Although the cause of a standing often remains unknown, scientists can sometimes attribute them to factors such as disease, vessel strikes, fishing gear entanglements, pollution exposure, or underwater noise. Some strandings can serve as indicators of ocean health, giving insight into larger environmental issues that may also have implications for human health and welfare.

Learn more about marine wildlife strandings and response

Educating the Public

NOAA Fisheries increases public awareness and support for sei whale conservation through education, outreach, and public participation. We regularly share information with the public about the status of sei whales, our research, and our efforts to promote their recovery.

Regulatory History

The sei whale has been listed as endangered under the ESA since 1970. It was originally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act, the precursor to the ESA, in June 1970. The species is also designated as depleted under the MMPA.

In 1980, the International Whaling Commission, a group composed of countries from all over the world, made commercial whaling of sei whales illegal in all the world’s oceans except for the North Atlantic Ocean.

In December 2011, NOAA Fisheries published a final recovery plan for the sei whale.

Key Documents

A complete list of regulatory and management documents for sei whales is available.