F.A.Q.

  • Are whales still hunted?
  • How many species of whales are there in the world?
  • How can I identify cetaceans in the wild?

Are whales still hunted?

Yes. Most people assume that whales were saved sometime back in the 1980's. Sadly however, hundreds of large whales and thousands of smaller whale species such as pilot whales, dolphins and porpoises, are killed every year in organized hunts around the world.
In spite of overwhelming international opposition, Japan has continued to defy the IWC – International Whaling Commission and world opinion, announcing in 2000 that they were expanding their whale hunt to include not only 500 Minke whales - a species of large whale they have continued to hunt since the global moratorium on commercial whaling announced in 1986, but also 10 Sperm whales and 50 Brydes Whales. Public outrage and diplomatic protest has failed to deter the whalers who are also hunting 50 endangered Sei whales in the northern Pacific this season.


How many species of whales are there in the world?

There are currently 79 recognized species of cetaceans in the oceans, seas and rivers of the world. These species are divided into two main groups. The toothed whales, or Odonocetes possess teeth, and the baleen whales or Mysticetes are filter feeders. Amazingly it is very likely that there are still more species of whales to be discovered. We know of at least one species of Mesplodon – Beaked whale that is known only from sightings at sea. As no specimen has ever been studied, the animal is yet to be classified and remains an unidentified species.


How can I identify cetaceans in the wild?

Identifying whales, dolphins and porpoises in the wild can be a challenge, as some species look alike, others spend long periods of time below the surface, while heavy seas and high winds can often add to the difficulties faced. However, there are several steps you can take that will assist you in making a successful identification. One feature alone is rarely enough, the key is to gather as much information on as many features as possible before attempting to draw a conclusion.
Identifying whales, dolphins and porpoises in the wild can be a challenge, as some species look alike, others spend long periods of time below the surface, while heavy seas and high winds can often add to the difficulties faced. However, there are several steps you can take that will assist you in making a successful identification. One feature alone is rarely enough, the key is to gather as much information on as many features as possible before attempting to draw a conclusion.


Key features include:
  • Size
  • Color
  • Body and head shape
  • Postion, shape and size of dorsal fin
  • Unusual markings eg; scars, scratches
  • Distinctive features eg. tusk, teeth, body stripes, eye patches
  • Blow characteristics (in large species)
  • Fluke shape and markings
  • Geographic location

It is now a simple process of elimination. With the aid of cetacean identification guide, you can use all of the key information gathered during your sighting to help identify the animal you have seen.


Right Whale Program F.A.Q.

  • What is the Right Whale Program?
  • Where am I able to find out more information about the research in Patagonia, Argentina?

What is the Right Whale Program?

For the past 30 years, the Ocean Alliance & Whale Conservation Institute has studied a population of right whales that uses the bays of Peninsula Valdes, Argentina as a nursery ground. It is the longest continuous study of a great whale based on the indentification of known individuals. The study began in 1970 when OA/ WCI president Roger Payne discovered that he could tell individual right whales apart by the differing patterns of white marks on their heads. Roger realized that by following the lives of individuals, he could learn far more about the whales than was being learned by whalers studying the animals they killed. Today, many of the animals that Roger identified in 1970 continue to return to the Peninsula but now they have new calves, and they are joined by their daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. The longevity of the study increases its value exponentially as the years pass.


Click here to read more about the Right Whale program.


Where am I able to find out more information about the research in Patagonia, Argentina?

The Whale Conservation Institute's branch in Argentina, the Instituto de Concervacion de Ballenas is working to educate Argentines about the whales and the problems they face and to gather popular support so that the people can become an effective resource for protecting the whales and their calving bays.

Oceans Matter
Did You Know

Whales also use their "echolocation" to "see" the surrounding geography, which likely helps them to navigate.


Whale Location