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

 aerial image showing four right whales splashing and interacting in close proximity to each other in what is known as a surface active group, or SAG. Four North Atlantic right whales socialize in what is known as a surface active group, or SAG, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Alison Ogilvie
Photo of a North Pacific right whale at the surface. North Pacific right whale. Credit: International Whaling Commission.

Research

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

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.