NOAA Fisheries conducts research on the biology, behavior, and ecology of the sperm whale. The research is used to inform management decisions and enhance recovery efforts for this endangered species.

Sperm whale flukes

A sperm whale shows its flukes. Photo: NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center/Kim Shelden.

Stock Assessments

Determining the number of sperm whales in each population—and whether a stock is increasing or decreasing over time—helps resource managers assess the success of enacted conservation measures. Our scientists collect information and present these data in annual stock assessment reports.

Acoustic Science

NOAA conducts research on the acoustic environment of cetaceans, including sperm whales. Acoustics is the science of how sound is transmitted. This research increases our understanding of the basic acoustic behavior of whales, dolphins, and fish; maps the acoustic environment; and develops better methods to locate cetaceans using autonomous gliders and passive acoustic arrays.

Acoustics are used to monitor hearing levels and feeding behavior in sperm whales. We also study how underwater noise affects the way sperm whales behave, eat, interact with each other, and move within their habitat.

Learn more about acoustic science

Genetic Data

Currently, NOAA Fisheries’ goal is to re-examine the stock designations for every stock managed using molecular genetic data. We use the genetic data to determine patterns of relatedness within groups of sperm whales encountered at sea. These data shed light on the evolution of sociality at sea and the nature of social bonds in groups of free-ranging whales.

Behavioral Science

Sperm whales have been tagged in an effort to learn more about foraging behavior, movement patterns, and core home ranges.