Whales | wwf
Sperm whale diving, Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand. 
	© naturepl.com/ Mark Brownlow / WWF


Australian waters support an array of whales and dolphins – from the giant blue whale, the largest living animal, to the endearing snubfin dolphin, a species found only in Australia.
In all, 45 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises call Australia home, including occasional visitors like the charismatic humpback whales that thrill spectators along our east and west coasts during their annual migrations between our waters and the Southern Ocean.


While Australia is blessed with a wonderful diversity of marine mammals, their lives are not without peril. They face many threats, including:

habitat loss and degradation

toxic pollution

ship strike

underwater disturbances from ships, oil and gas operations, and military exercises

oil and gas extraction

entanglement in fishing gear

the impacts of climate change.

The great whales must contend with these threats while still recovering from a century of commercial whaling that took many species to the brink of extinction. Worse still, Japan, Iceland and Norway continue to hunt certain whale species in contravention of a 1986 IWC moratorium against whaling.


WWF-Australia is actively working to protect our whales by:

• creating new whale sanctuaries and advocating for a National Network of Whale and Dolphins Sanctuaries

• supporting research to fill critical knowledge gaps

• building the conservation agenda of the International Whaling Commission

• working to preserve the moratorium against commercial whaling and end whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

status of cetacean species

  • Critically Endangered

    * Blue whale (Antarctic)
    * Gray whale Northwest Pacific population
    * Vaquita


    * Blue whale
    * Fin whale
    * North Pacific right whale
    * North Atlantic right whale
    * Sei whale


    * Beluga
    * Blue whale musculus subspecies - Atlantic population
    * Sperm whale

    Lower Risk (Conservation Dependent)

    * Antarctic minke whale
    * Arnoux's beaked whale
    * Baird's beaked whale
    * Blue whale (North Pacific)
    * Bowhead whale
    * Gray whale Northeast Pacific population
    * Northern bottlenose whale
    * Southern bottlenose whale
    * Short-finned pilot whale
    * Southern right whale

    Lower Risk (Least Concern)

    * Minke whale
    * Dwarf sperm whale
    * Pygmy right whale
    * Long-finned pilot whale
    * Humpback whale
    * Pygmy sperm whale
    * Melon-headed whale
    * Gray whale (species)

    Source: IUCN Red List