Whales are among the largest and oldest animals on Earth. They can be found in every ocean and range in size from the small dwarf sperm whale to the massive blue whale, the largest animal on the planet. Whales belong to a group of marine mammals called cetaceans. Marine mammals in the cetacean family include whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

Close up image of baleen sheets from a whale's mouth
Baleen is a filter-feeding system inside the mouths of baleen whales.

There are two types of cetaceans: baleen and toothed. Baleen whales, or Mysticetes, have baleen plates which sieve prey, like krill, from the water. Toothed whales, or Odontocetes, have teeth and feed on fish, squid, and other marine mammals such as seals and sea lions.

Together with our partners, we work to ensure the conservation of whales which are all protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and protect and recover those that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Species News

North Atlantic right whale seen from above with gear trailing from its mouth. An aerial survey team from Center for Coastal Studies spotted an entangled right whale south of Nantucket on October 19, 2020. Photo taken under Center for Coastal Studies permit.
north atlantic right whale North Atlantic right whale ‘Ruffian’ (catalog #3530) has several healed entanglement wounds. Photos taken throughout a whale’s lifetime help researchers better understand the effects of vessel strikes and entanglement on whale health. Image taken under MMPA research permit #17335 Photographer: NOAA/NEFSC/Christin Khan
A right whale breaches North Atlantic right whale. Credit: NOAA Fisheries
Jeff Hogan hold a post showing identifying features of killer whales Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales shares details of Southern Resident and other types of killer whales with students prior to COVID restrictions. Photo courtesy of Killer Whale Tales.


Peer-Reviewed Research

Publications by Northeast Passive Acoustic Research Staff

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

Protected Species Gear Research

Eric Matzen collecting data during buoyless lobster trap tests. Testing gear with fishermen under actual fishing conditions is key to developing modifications that can reduce whale entanglements without significant loss of the targeted catch. …

Peer-Reviewed Research

A New Species of Baleen Whale (Balaenoptera) from the Gulf of Mexico, with a Review of its Geographic Distribution.

New research provides a body of evidence supporting the existence of an undescribed species of…

Marine Mammal Molecular Genetics Laboratory

Using molecular genetic tools and techniques to study marine mammals and gather information essential for their successful conservation and management in the Southeast Region.


Understanding Marine Mammal Protections

Learn how NOAA Fisheries protects all marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Pod of killer whales.


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