Protecting Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

There are over 80 species of cetaceans, a group made up of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Cetaceans are air-breathing, warm-blooded mammals that bear live young and nurse them on milk.
They live their entire lives in the oceans and seas worldwide. Cetaceans fall into two categories: mysticetes (or baleen whales), and odontocetes, including toothed whales, oceanic and river dolphins, and porpoises. Learn more about cetaceans


Seven out of the 13 great whale species are still endangered or vulnerable, even after decades of protection. Whales, dolphins and porpoises are succumbing to new and ever-increasing dangers.

A new WWF report: Small cetaceans: The Forgotten Whales, states that inadequate conservation measures are pushing small cetaceans – such as dolphins, porpoises and small whales – toward extinction as their survival is overshadowed by efforts to save their larger cousins.

Collisions with ships and entanglement in fishing gear threaten the North Atlantic right whale with extinction, while the critically endangered western North Pacific gray whale is at serious risk because of intensive oil and gas development in its feeding grounds.

UPDATE!!!: Exxon refuses to drop exploration plans as whales return to annual feeding habitat near drill site.

Alarm is also growing over other hazards including toxic contamination, the effects of climate change and habitat degradation.

WWF is saving cetaceans

To secure the future of the world's whales, WWF is developing an ambitious conservation program for endangered whale species and populations. Our work includes:

  • Improving fishing practices
    Bycatch occurs when fishermen inadvertently hook or trap sea life other than their targeted catch. Over 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises die from entanglement in fishing nets each year, making bycatch the single largest cause of mortality for small cetaceans and pushing several species to the verge of extinction. WWF reduces bycatch by facilitating improvement to fishing gear and practices that reduce bycatch while still allowing fishermen to catch fish.
    • The bycatch statistics
    • Circle Hooks
    • Innovative solutions and inspiring designs
  • Influencing international policy
    WWF has been active in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) since 1961, almost immediately after WWF was founded. WWF is urging countries participating in the IWC to end an impasse that has prevented the governing body from exerting any oversight over Japan, Norway, and Iceland, which continue to whale outside the purview of IWC.

    Learn more about WWF's work to promote sustainable fishing practices

What YOU can do