About the CSG

The IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group (CSG) is one of the more than 100 Specialist Groups and Task Forces that constitute the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is a science-based network of some 9000 volunteer experts from almost every country in the world. Some specialist groups, such as the CSG, address conservation issues related to particular groups of plants or animals while others focus on topical issues, such as the reintroduction of species into former habitats or wildlife health. The SSC’s main role is to provide information to IUCN on biodiversity conservation, provide scientific advice to conservation organizations, government agencies and other IUCN members, and support the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

– Expert advice for science-based conservation

Since the 1960s, the Cetacean Specialist Group (CSG) has played a major role in identifying conservation problems for the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises. Many cetacean species face grave threats to their continued existence. The baiji is likely to be extinct, the vaquita numbers only a few tens of individuals, and North Atlantic right whales number only in the low hundreds. Local populations of other species have disappeared and others are seriously imperiled.

Peales Dolphin, Lagenorynchus australis, photographed in the Chiloé Archipelago, Chile. Photo: Sonja Heinrich

CSG Mission
The Cetacean Specialist Group promotes and facilitates the conservation of cetaceans worldwide.  It functions as a catalyst, clearing house, and facilitator for cetacean-related research and conservation action. Our guiding premise is that conservation ultimately depends upon good science, and the group’s credibility and value are based on maintaining high standards of scientific rigor. The advice we provide relates mainly to the status of populations, abundance, trends, the effects of current or potential threats, and the efficacy of mitigation. Our emphasis is on the recovery of endangered species and populations, but we also recognize the importance of maintaining the full diversity of the cetaceans, which includes just over 90 species and many subspecies and populations.


The CSG currently has 145 members worldwide who contribute significant experience and technical expertise to the growing pool of knowledge about cetaceans. With ongoing revision and debate about how they should be classified, there are currently more than 90 recognised cetacean species. These animals live in a variety of habitats, from the high seas far beyond the national jurisdiction of any country, to the shallow freshwater rivers, lakes and coastal waters of southern Asia and South America.

A rare shot of the elusive Hectors beaked whale (Mesoplodon hectori) off Western Australia
A rare shot of the elusive Hectors beaked whale (Mesoplodon hectori) off Western Australia. Photo: Nick Gales

Some species are highly migratory, requiring vast areas of ocean to move between feeding and calving waters, whilst others reside in particular sections of rivers and coastal waters.  Although the great whales such as the blue, humpback, sperm and right whales are important to the Group’s mission these animals receive a lot of attention, so the CSG focuses more on smaller species, often lesser-known and in developing countries, that are particularly threatened with extinction.


The CSG has made a substantial contribution towards establishing and promoting critical priorities, particularly where urgent interventions are needed. It is proud of its achievements but also recognizes that its role is often only the first step and that long-term cetacean conservation depends on the efforts of governments, NGOs and local communities.  CSG members play a leading role in providing species assessments for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the group provides global reviews and associated action plans at regular intervals.

Sousa teuszii travelling along coast Sousa teuszii, Atlantic humpback dolphin, travelling along the coast off Flamingos, Namibe Province, Angola. Photo: Caroline R. Weir

The current Chair of the CSG is Randall Reeves and the Deputy Chairs are Gianna Minton, and Gill Braulik (who also manages the CSG website). Barbara Taylor is the focal point of the Red List Authority and, with Grant Abel, co-chair of ICPC.  There are seven regional coordinators: Asia – Brian Smith and Louisa Ponnampalam, South America – Enrique Crespo, Mexico and Central America – Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, Africa – Tim Collins, and Oceania – Elanor Bell and Mike Double.


This website provides details about CSG membership and leadership, summaries of the Red List status of cetaceans and the procedures for red listing, and updates on conservation issues considered important to CSG members and the wider world.  News items can include articles drafted by CSG members, or those drafted by external individuals or organisations in collaboration with CSG members who have ensured that content is accurate and in keeping with CSG-led or supported conservation efforts.


Socialising Heaviside’s dolphins, Cephalorhynchus heavisidii,photographed in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Photo: Simon Elwen