Red List Status and Extinction Risk of the World’s Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises – New Infographic


From 2017 to 2021, the CSG reassessed nearly all currently recognized species of cetaceans (90 of 92 at that time) for the IUCN Red List. Regular updates regarding progress on this task, which involved many CSG members, have been provided on this website (see 2022, 2021, and 2020 updates on red listing progress). With the task close to completion, the information contained in the newly updated Red List assessments was collated to provide an overview of the global Red List status, which was published in Conservation Biology earlier this year in a paper with the title Red List Status and Extinction Risk of the World’s Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises.


The key findings of the paper are shown in the bullet points below. To aid in communication of the findings and to highlight important issues to decision makers and the public the infographic below was also developed. This infographic is available for download and we encourage everyone to use it.


Key Findings

    • One in 4 cetacean species (26% of 92) were assessed as being threatened with extinction (i.e., Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU)) and 11% as Near Threatened (NT).
    • Ten percent of cetacean species were assessed as Data Deficient, and it was predicted that 2–3 of these species may prove to be threatened.
    • The proportion of threatened cetaceans has increased: 15% in 1991, 19% in 2008 and 26% in 2021.
    • The assessed conservation status of 20% of species has worsened from 2008 to 2021, and only 3 moved into categories of lesser threat.
    • Cetacean species with small geographic ranges were more likely to be listed as threatened than those with large ranges.
    • Cetacean that occur in freshwater (100% of species) and coastal (60% of species) habitats were under the greatest threat.
    • Analysis of odontocete species distributions revealed a global hotspot of threatened small cetaceans in Southeast Asia, in an area encompassing the Coral Triangle and extending through nearshore waters of the Bay of Bengal, northern Australia and Papua New Guinea and into the coastal waters of China.