2 updated cetacean red list assessments published in March 2021


The 2021-1 edition of the Red List, which was published in March 2021, included two updated cetacean assessments. This is in addition to the 22 assessments published in December 2020, 3 earlier in 2020, 6 in December 2019, 2 in July 2019, 5 in March 2019, 35 in November 2018, 10 in July 2018, and 19 in November 2017. A total of 104 updated or new cetacean assessments have now been published in the last 2 ½ years.


One of the two 2021-1 updated assessments was of the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and it reflects the recent change in taxonomy for this species group (see Committee on Taxonomy), combining all common dolphin forms into a single assessment as Least Concern. The northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) was moved from Data Deficient to Near Threatened in the newly published updated assessment of that species. Work on the remaining two cetacean species that require updating (sperm whale and Hector’s dolphin), and on some of the more out-of-date subpopulation and subspecies assessments, will continue in 2021.


Table 1. Summary of updated assessments and new assessments published in the 2021-1 edition of the Red List. (NT = Near Threatened, DD = Data Deficient, CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, LC = Least Concern).

# Species/Subspecies Common name Taxonomic level Category Status change
1 Delphinus delphis Common dolphin Species (global) LC No change
2 Hyperoodon ampullatus Northern Bottlenose whale Species (global) NT DD -> NT


The Red List status and documentation for 90 cetacean species as well as 12 subspecies and 28 subpopulations can be found on the IUCN Red List website (redlist.org). Of the 90 species, 24% are assigned to a threatened category (i.e., CR, EN, VU), 11% are Near Threatened, just over half (54%) are Least Concern, and 10% are considered DD (Table 2). It should also be emphasized that there is strong interest in completing additional assessments of subpopulations that are known or thought to be at higher risk than the species as a whole (e.g., killer whales, belugas, dusky dolphins).


Table 2. Summary information on Red List status as of March 2021.

Category Species Subspecies Subpopulations Total
Critically Endangered 4 4 14 22
Endangered 11 4 7 22
Vulnerable 7 4 5 16
Near Threatened 10 0 0 10
Least Concern 49 0 0 49
Data Deficient 9 0 2 11
Total 90 12 28 128