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.

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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

whale entangled in fishing gear Credit: Scott Benson, NOAA. Permit number: MMHSRP Permit #18786
Large black and white sea turtle swims in the blue ocean with yellow and black striped fish The Pacific leatherback sea turtles have existed in their current form without scales and a hard shell since the age of the dinosaurs, but threats from bycatch, egg harvesting, and degradation of nesting habit have made this species endangered. Photo credit Jason Isley, Scubazoo.
North Atlantic right whale breaks the surface of the water in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Alison Ogilvie North Atlantic right whale breaks the surface of the water in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Alison Ogilvie
Seven Stejneger’s beaked whales that stranded at Palisades Point on Adak Island, Alaska. Seven Stejneger’s beaked whales that stranded at Palisades Point on Adak Island, Alaska.

Research

SWFSC Stranding Collections

What we collect and how tissues are used 

Cetacean Life History

Stranding data fill in critical missing parts of the cetacean life history story

SWFSC Stranding Investigations

Investigating why marine mammals strand 

Species Distribution Models

Habitat-based density estimates for cetaceans in the California Current Ecosystem

Insight

Understanding Marine Mammal Protections

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

Pod of killer whales.

Species

32 species match your filter criteria.