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

WDC provides supportive care to a live-stranded common dolphin. Photo credit: Andrea Spence/IFAW WDC provides supportive care to a live-stranded common dolphin. Credit: Andrea Spence/IFAW
An individual wearing a life vest and safety helmet stands on the platform of a small boat to practice tossing a grappling hook. NOAA and partners go through rigorous training in preparation for responding to large whale entanglements. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Cameron Dabney
Bridge crew from Norwegian Encore holding their Certificate of Corporate Responsibility from the Whale Alert Alaska Program. Bridge crew from Norwegian Encore holding their Certificate of Corporate Responsibility from the Whale Alert Alaska Program.
NOAA Enforcement Officer monitoring the vessel speed of a cargo ship. NOAA Enforcement Officer monitoring the vessel speed of a cargo ship.

Multimedia

A North Atlantic right whale with propeller scars Right whale #3853 swimming north offshore of South Carolina on Jan. 20, 2011 with a series of fresh propeller wounds running across its back. The whale was observed 5 days previously offshore of Georgia without propeller wounds. It is unknown whether the whale survived its wounds or not, as it has not been re-sighted since. Vessel collisions are a leading cause of right whale mortality. Credit: EcoHealth Alliance (NOAA permit #594-1759).
Photograph from the North Atlantic right whale Catalog #3560 of "Snow Cone," a North Atlantic right whale sighted December 2, 2021 that was entangled in gear and with a new calf. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission taken under NOAA permit 20556. North Atlantic right whale Catalog #3560 ‘Snow Cone’ sighted December 2, 2021 entangled and with a new calf. Photo credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission taken under NOAA permit 20556.
Biologist on a ship collecting data during buoyless lobster trap tests. A Northeast Fisheries Science Center biologist collecting data during buoyless lobster trap tests.

Research

Peer-Reviewed Research

Beaked Whale Dive Cycle Estimation Based on Acoustic Data From Drifting Recording Systems

Our acoustic-only estimation method opens the door to obtaining estimates for many species.

Peer-Reviewed Research

Publications by Northeast Passive Acoustic Research Staff

Our staff regularly publish their findings in scientific journals and Center-produced documents…

Peer-Reviewed Research

Acoustic Localization, Validation, and Characterization of Rice's Whale Calls

This study uses sonobuoys and passive acoustic tagging to validate the source of potential call…

Protected Species Gear Research

We work closely with the commercial fishing industry to reduce harmful interactions with marine mammals, turtles, and other protected 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.