maintaining a healthy and diverse assemblage of plants and animals. Every species is important and each species adds something unique. However, due to a multitude of factors, there are many marine mammals who are considered to be endangered according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Keeping track of endangered species is important and the presence of endangered species not only impacts the species itself, but it can dramatically influence the region as a whole.
Here is a list of the top 10 endangered marine mammals in the world:
#1 Hawksbill turtle
The Hawksbill turtle prefers tropical waters and often times can be found near coral reefs. In the last century, their population has declined by nearly 80% and they are listed as critically endangered as a result¹.
#2 Leatherback turtle
This species of turtle is also listed as critically endangered and can be found migrating long distances between both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. These turtles are victims of accidental bycatch of fisheries and populations are declining due to people collecting their eggs².
The Vaquita is a small member of the porpoise family and resides in the waters off the coast of Baja California in Mexico. This species is listed as critically endangered due to a decline in populations of up to 15% since the 1940s³.
#4 Blue Whale
This species of whale can be seen in oceans all over the globe due to its long migratory patterns. This is the largest mammal on earth and is endangered due to a long history of these whales being commercially hunted. Although hunting of this species has been banned since 1966, it still remains endangered today⁴.
#5 Hawaiian Monk Seal
If the name doesn’t give it away, this species of seal calls the pacific waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands home. They are one of the rarest marine mammals on earth and many times are the innocent victims of humans, being both hunted or becoming trapped in fishing nets or other human debris⁵.
#6 Fin Whale
After the blue whale, the fin whale is the second largest mammal in the world, and characterized by the ridge behind their dorsal fin. Like other whale species, the fin whale is endangered due to hunting and marine pollution⁶.
#7 Hector’s Dolphin
Found in the waters near northern New Zealand, Hector’s Dolphin is considered to be the smallest marine dolphin in the world. They are very rare and endangered due to human threats and oftentimes drown as a result of getting trapped in fishing nets⁷.
#8 Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
This turtle is one of the rarest and most endangered in the world. Found mostly in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, this turtle is endangered due to habitat loss or other human related activities. It is estimated that only 500 individuals remain⁵.
#9 Steller Sea Lion
The Steller Sea Lion makes its home in the waters of the Northern Pacific Ocean. Due to human and natural predation, their population has declined by nearly 60% in the past 50 years⁵.
#10 Hammerhead shark
Although there are multiple species of hammerhead shark, it is important to add it to this list. Generally, hammerhead sharks are found in tropical waters around the globe. Like many shark species, this shark is declining in many times the victim of shark finning⁵.
Although not part of the top ten, other notable endangered (or previously endangered) marine mammals include the Florida manatee, the humpback whale and the Fraser’s dolphin⁵. Many of these species declining in numbers directly due to human activities or negligence. When on or near the ocean, it is important to remember that the ocean is home to many unique species. Maintaining the health of these species is important for preserving the health of the ecosystem and the ocean as a whole.