3 Updated Cetacean Red List Assessments Published in 2020 So Far


Assessments or reassessments of 3 cetacean species, subspecies or populations were published on the IUCN Red List in early 2020. This is in addition to the 6 published in December 2019, 2 published in July 2019, 5 published in March 2019, 35 published in November 2018, 10 in July 2018, and 19 in November 2017. A total of 80 updated or new cetacean assessments have now been published in the last 2 ½ years.


The updated assessments were of the North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) which was uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered, a new listing of the Gulf of Corinth subpopulation of Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis) also Critically Endangered and an updated listing for the Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) which remains Least Concern (Table 1). Work on the remaining cetacean species that require updating, primarily the beaked whales, is near completion, and we expect most of them to be published in late 2020.


Table 1. Summary of updated assessments and new assessments published in the 2020-2 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 Eubalaena glacialis North Atlantic Right Whale Species (global) CR EN -> CR
2 Delphinus delphis Common Dolphin, Gulf of Corinth Subpopulation CR New listing
3 Phocoena phocoena Harbour Porpoise Species (global) LC No change


The Red List status and documentation for 89 (of the 91 currently recognised) cetacean species as well as 42 subspecies or subpopulations can be found on the IUCN Red List website (redlist.org).  Of the 89 species, 30% are assigned to a threatened category (i.e., CR, EN, VU, NT) and 29% are considered DD (Table 2) although ongoing reassessments of Data Deficient species are likely to result in some of them being reclassified in the near future. 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 July 2020.

Category Species Subspecies/subpopulations Total
Critically Endangered 4 18 22
Endangered 9 11 20
Vulnerable 7 10 17
Near Threatened 7 0 7
Least Concern 36 0 36
Data Deficient 26 3 29
Total 89 42 131