Status of the World’s Cetaceans

A total of 87 cetacean species (of 90) and an additional 38 subspecies or subpopulations have been evaluated for the IUCN Red List.


The Yangtze River dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) is classified as critically endangered and may already be functionally extinct. The vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a porpoise resident in the inner Gulf of California in Mexico is the other cetacean that is listed as critically endangered. Seven species are endangered: sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis), blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica), the South Asian river dolphins (Platanista gangetica), and Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori). Six species are classified as vulnerable and five are near threatened. Many species are very little known and have been classified as Data Deficient.

Ganges River dolphin, Platanista gangetica gangetica, photographed in the Kulsi River, India. Rivers dolphins in this river are threatened by construction of a new dam. Photo credit: Mark Cawardine.

Category Species Subspecies/populations Total
Critically Endangered 3 16 19
Endangered 10 11 21
Vulnerable 7 8 15
Near Threatened 5 0 5
Least Concern 36 0 36
Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent* 0 1 1
Data Deficient 27 3 30
Total 89 39 128

*This classification is from the 1994 red list categories and criteria, version 2.3.

Secured By miniOrange