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 of a right whale as it swims along. The top of its back and head are visble above the surface. A single North Atlantic right swims in the Atlantic Ocean. NOAA Fisheries/Peter Duley
Rice’s whale at the surface. A Rice’s whale in the Gulf of Mexico. Permit #14450. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Laura Dias
Dr. Charles "Stormy" Mayo and Assistant Administrator Janet Coit Dr. Charles “Stormy” Mayo and NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit at the Center for Coastal Studies.
A gray whale with ridges on its rostrum (top of the head between the blowhole and snout_ One of two Rice’s whales observed by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center in the western Gulf of Mexico during an aerial survey on April 11, 2024. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Nagelkirk (Permit #21938)

Multimedia

Overcast day with mostly gray and silver tones. In the background at left, a line of 8 offshore windmills tower over the horizon. In the foreground, a small boat open-decked boat with a flat roof is silhouetted against a shining sea A small fishing vessel near wind turbines. Credit: Bob Brewer on Unsplash
A black and white Southern Resident killer whale leaping out of the water. The fin of another whale is visible and a boat and mountains are in the background. A Southern Resident killer whale leaps out of the water. Credit: Candace Emmons
Horton NARW with her calf North Atlantic right whale Horton and newborn calf. Credit: Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit #26919.

Research

Peer-Reviewed Research

A density surface model describing the habitat of the Critically Endangered Rice’s whale Balaenoptera ricei in the Gulf of Mexico

This research characterizes habitat for endangered Rice’s whales based on oceanographic parameters…

Passive Acoustic Technologies

We record sounds in the ocean to learn about marine mammals and other ocean species, working with partners around the globe.

Peer-Reviewed Research

Publications by Northeast Passive Acoustics Branch Staff

We regularly publish their findings in scientific journals and Center-produced documents.

Cetacean Genomes Project Team

Meet the scientists of the "Cetacean Genomes Project" which aims to facilitate generation of reference genomes of all cetacean species.

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.