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

Sperm whale off AL Sperm whale in Mobile Bay Thursday, Nov. 19
Humpback whales bubble net feeding in Southeast Alaska. Humpback whales bubble net feeding in Southeast Alaska. NMFS Permit #14296
Photo of a bowhead whale in the Beaufort Sea. One bowhead whale sighted in a feeding aggregation approximately 15 km north of the mouth of Smith Bay, Alaska (event 116), North Slope Borough Autumn Aerial Surveys Flight 1, 17 September 2020. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.


Feature Story

North Slope Borough, NOAA, University of Washington and Cooperative Institute for Climate Ocean and Ecosystem Studies Scientists Collaborate to Monitor Whales in 2020 in Northern Alaska

In the Arctic, each year before daylight disappears and winter arrives, thousands of bowhead whales make their  fall migration across the Beaufort Sea off northern Alaska. The timing of the migration is something Alaska Indigenous communities and…

Southwest Fisheries Science Center Stock Assessments

Population assessments are a key component of marine resource management. These assessments allow us to evaluate and report the status of managed fisheries, marine mammals, and endangered/threatened species under the authorities of the Magnuson-Stevens…

Feature Story

Collaboration and Partnerships Make Data Collection Possible in a Challenging Year for Arctic Research

Acoustic data on pollock movements between Russia and the United States. Audio recordings of whales to learn more about their migration and abundance. Data on plankton, the base of the marine food chain. A small team of scientists have been collecting…

NOAA Live! Alaska

NOAA Live! Alaska is a series of webinars that connects NOAA scientists and partners with students, teachers, and Alaska communities.


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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