6 Updated Cetacean Red List Assessments Published in December 2019

Assessments or reassessments of 6 cetacean species, subspecies or populations were published on the IUCN Red List in December 2019. This is in addition to the 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 77 updated or new cetacean assessments have now been published in the last 2 years.


The updated assessments were of the Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) which remains Vulnerable, the Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) which moved from Data Deficient to Near Threatened, and the Atlantic White-sided Dolphin which remains Least Concern.  There were three new listings: the Lahille’s Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus gephyreus) and Peruvian Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus posidonia) are both listed as Vulnerable, and the Gibraltar Strait subpopulation of Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) is now Critically Endangered (see Table 1 for details).  Work on new assessments and the remaining required updates is close to completion, and we expect them to be published in 2020.


Table 1 – Summary of updated assessments and new assessments published in the 2019-3 (December) 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 Physeter macrocephalus Sperm whale Species (global) VU No change
2 Tursiops aduncus Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphin Species (global) NT DD -> NT
3 Lagenorhyncus acutus Atlantic white-sided dolphin Species (global) LC No change
4 Tursiops truncatus gephyreus Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin Subspecies (global) VU New listing
5 Orcinus orca Killer whale Strait of Gibraltar (subpopulation) CR New listing
6 Lagenorhynchus obscurus posidonia Peruvian Dusky dolphin Subspecies (global) VU New listing


The Red List status and documentation for the 89 currently recognised cetacean species as well as 41 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 although ongoing reassessments of Data Deficient species are likely to result in some of them being reclassified in the near future (see 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 December 2019.

Category Species Subspecies/subpopulations Total
Critically Endangered 3 17 20
Endangered 10 11 21
Vulnerable 7 10 17
Near Threatened 7 0 7
Least Concern 36 0 36
Data Deficient 26 3 29
Total 89 41 130




IUCN World Conservation Congress motions relevant to cetacean conservation

The IUCN World Conservation Congress will be held in Marseille in June 2020. Motions to be tabled at the congress will be available for online consultation by IUCN members (for what this means, see https://www.iucn.org/about/union/members) from December 11th 2019 and March 11th 2020.  After that, they will be available to the membership for electronic vote from April 29th to May 13th.

Below we provide a compilation of all the motions that are directly and indirectly related to cetaceans.  Click on the title of each motion to find out more details.  The full list of motions is available via the WCC website here.

WCC Motion number Motions Directly mentioning cetaceans/marine mammals
027 Reducing impacts of incidental capture on threatened marine species
110 Safeguarding the Endangered narrow-ridged finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis) off the Korean Peninsula
118 Renforcer la protection des mammifères marins par la coopération régionale
Motions relevant to protection of marine mammal habitat
009 Protecting rivers as corridors in a changing climate
014 Aquatic biodiversity conservation of shallow marine and freshwater systems
015 Supporting the Lower Mekong Basin countries with the transboundary management of water resources, ecosystems and biodiversity
017 Cooperation on transboundary fresh waters to ensure ecosystem conservation, climate resilience and sustainable development
024 Restoring a peaceful and quiet ocean
026 Establishment of a mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar moratorium for naval exercises conducted in Macaronesia
031 Seascapes working for biodiversity conservation
033 For the urgent global management of marine and coastal sand resources
035 Enhancing the resilience of coastal areas in the face of climate change
037 Ocean impacts of climate change
066 Guidance to identify industrial fishing incompatible with protected areas
093 Conservation, restoration and sustainable management of mangrove ecosystems
094 Linking in situ and ex situ efforts to save threatened species
097 Reducing marine turtle bycatch: the important role of regulatory mechanisms in the global roll-out of Turtle Excluder Devices
101 Setting area-based conservation targets based on evidence of what nature and people need to thrive


CMS Scientific Council Meeting and Outcomes Relevant to Cetacean Conservation

By Gianna Minton (24 Nov 2019)


Background and summary


The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Scientific Council met from 12-14 November 2019 in Bonn, Germany. Its task was to evaluate ongoing activities and draft resolutions, decisions and proposals and make recommendations to member governments that will meet in the triennial Conference of Parties (COP) in Gandhinagar, India from 15-22 February 2020.

A range of issues relevant to cetacean conservation are addressed by the Council. IUCN CSG Deputy Chair Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara is the CMS Councillor for Aquatic Mammals (including cetaceans). The following issues that were discussed in the aquatic working group of the Council and will be taken forward to the COP next February. CSG members may want to track some of these issues and communicate with the relevant CMS focal points if they are keen to support proposed measures:


Threats/issues affecting cetaceans



Proposals for Concerted Actions (regional government-backed collaboration for a species or population)



Progress on existing Concerted Actions:


A number of progress reports were endorsed with an addendum that included clarification of procedures for extension or continuation into the next triennium (between COP 13 in 2020 and the next COP in 2023):