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

Harbor seal pup A harbor seal pup is assessed for body condition and signs of injury. Credit: WDC
Fin whale with spectrogram of downsweep and backbeat calls Fin whale and spectrogram of downsweep and backbeat calls. Credit: NOAA Fisheries.
A group of 4 people stand on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat with a NOAA logo on the blue water Greg and colleagues on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat while conducting research on humpback whales off Silver Bank, Dominican Republic during the More North Atlantic Humpbacks (MoNAH) survey in 2004.
psb-acoustics-champ-maru.jpg Jeremy Kiszka of Florida International University checks on one of the Marine Autonomous Recording Units (MARUs) deployed in the Caribbean in 2017 to record humpback songs and other ocean sounds.


Marine Mammal Research Surveys in NOAA’s Southeast Region

How survey data is collected and used to inform marine mammal population assessments in the Southeast.

SWFSC Stranding Collections

What we collect and how tissues are used 

Marine Mammal Life History

Data collected from stranded and bycaught marine mammals are critical to understanding their life history

SWFSC Stranding Investigations

Investigating trends in marine mammals strandings


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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