March 27, 2008
There are about two dozen species of "great whales"—those whales historically targeted by whalers, most of whom are the filter-feeding baleen whales (the sperm whale is the only toothed whale considered a "great whale"). The beaked whales are a little known group of toothed whales that are usually much larger than dolphins or porpoises and are thus considered whales. Baleen whales are the champion migrators among mammals—some travel 5,000 miles one-way between their feeding and breeding grounds.
Humpback whales sing haunting songs—beaked whales can dive down a mile or more. Sperm whales have been known to hold their breath for more than an hour—blue whales are the largest animal that has ever lived on earth.
Whales (baleen, beaked, and sperm) represent an ancient group of mammals that are now threatened by the impacts of human activities in the ocean. Whaling, entanglement in debris, pollution, and global warming (among other threats) all put the long-term survival of these wondrous creatures at risk. HSI is working at international treaty forums (such as the International Whaling Commission) to end all commercial killing of whales. We are active in a coalition campaign to protect whales, especially the deep diving beaked and sperm whales, from the impacts of military sonar and other human-caused noise in the ocean. And we are working to stop the further degradation of whale habitat from global warming and pollution and to ease the conflict between whales and human activities, such as commercial fishing and shipping.