Management Overview The sperm whale has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 1970. This means that the sperm whale is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. NOAA Fisheries is working to protect this species, with the goal of increasing population. Sperm whale at water's surface. Photo: NOAA Fisheries Recovery Planning and Implementation Recovery Action Under the ESA, NOAA Fisheries is required to develop and implement recovery plans for the conservation and survival of listed species. The Recovery Plan for the sperm whale was published in December 2010. The plan’s goal is to delist the species, with an interim goal of down-listing its status from "endangered" to "threatened." The major actions recommended in the plan are: Reduce or eliminate injury or mortality caused by vessel collisions. Reduce or eliminate injury and mortality caused by fisheries and fishing gear. Protect habitats essential to the survival and recovery of the species. 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 sperm whales. Acquire scientific information from dead specimens. Learn more about the recovery plan for sperm whales Implementation NOAA Fisheries is working to minimize effects from human activities that are detrimental to the recovery of sperm whale populations in the U.S. and internationally. Together with our partners, we undertake numerous activities to support the goals of the sperm whale recovery plan. The ultimate goal is to delist the species. Efforts to conserve sperm whales include: Protecting habitat. Reducing bycatch. Rescue, disentanglement, and rehabilitation. Eliminating the harassment of animals through education and enforcement. A sperm whale dives. Photo: NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center/Brenda Rone. Conservation Efforts Addressing Ocean Noise Underwater noise may threaten sperm 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 injury to sperm whales resulting in loss of hearing, or possibly stranding and ultimately death. NOAA Fisheries is investigating sound production and hearing in marine animals, as well as the effects of sound on whale behavior. 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 marine mammal conservation through education, outreach, and public participation. We regularly share information with the public about the status of sperm whales, our research, and our efforts to promote their recovery. Regulatory History The sperm whale was listed as endangered throughout its range on June 2, 1970 under the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969. Sperm whales are also protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. A 5-year status review (PDF, 44 pages) was initiated in 2007, and completed in 2009. The final recovery plan was put forth in 2010. A critical habitat designation was petitioned for sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico in 2013, and a 12-month finding determined this designation to be “not warranted.” Under MMPA Section 101(a)(5)(E), in 2013, a Negligible Impact Determination was issued for a permit for incidental take in California thresher shark/swordfish drift gillnet fishery and Washington/Oregon/California sablefish pot fishery (PDF, 71 pages). Under MMPA Section 101(a)(5)(E), in 2014, a Negligible Impact Determination was issued for a permit for incidental take in Hawaii deep-set and shallow-set longline fisheries (PDF, 62 pages). Under MMPA Section 101(a)(5)(E), in 2015, a Negligible Impact Determination was amended for a permit for incidental take in California thresher shark/swordfish drift gillnet fishery and Washington/Oregon/California sablefish pot fishery (PDF, 84 pages). A 5-year status review (PDF, 61 pages) was completed in 2015. Under MMPA Section 101(a)(5)(E), in 2017, a Negligible Impact Determination was proposed for a permit for incidental take in California thresher shark/swordfish drift gillnet fishery and Washington/Oregon/California sablefish pot fishery (PDF, 57 pages). Key Documents A complete list of regulatory and management documents for sperm whales is available.