2017 Cetacean Red List Update


Assessments or reassessments of 19 cetacean species, subspecies and populations were published on the IUCN Red List in 2017. These included all four species of humpback dolphin, the Irrawaddy dolphin, two species of finless porpoise, the South Asian River dolphin, the beluga, the narwhal, and the vaquita among others (see Table 1 for details). A new “taxon,” the Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whale, was listed as Critically Endangered (CR). The Atlantic humpback dolphin was uplisted to CR, and the baiji, vaquita and Taiwanese humpback dolphin (formerly considered a subpopulation, recently described as a subspecies) were all reconfirmed as CR (the baiji again being tagged as “possibly extinct”).  The South Asian River dolphin, Irrawaddy dolphin, narrow-ridged finless porpoise, and Indian Ocean humpback dolphin were all listed as Endangered (EN), while the franciscana, Australian humpback dolphin, Australian snubfin dolphin, Indo-Pacific finless porpoise, and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin were all listed as Vulnerable (VU).

Summary of reassessments or new assessments published in the 2017-3 (December)* Red List update. (NT = Near Threatened; DD = Data Deficient)* published in the September edition of the 2017 Red List.

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All 89 cetacean species and an additional 39 subspecies or subpopulations have been assessed and their status and documentation can be found on the IUCN Red List website (redlist.org). Of the 89 species, 22% are assigned to a threatened category (i.e., CR, EN, VU, NT) and almost 50% are considered DD (see Table 2).

Table 2. Summary information on Red List status as of December 2017.

Category Species Subspecies/populations Total
Critically Endangered 3 17 20
Endangered 10 9 19
Vulnerable 6 7 13
Near Threatened 1 0 1
Least Concern 25 0 25
Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent* 0 2 2
Data Deficient 44 4 48
Total 89 39 128

*This category is no longer recognized; therefore these assessments are out of date.