Large aggregation of Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) engaged in social activity.
Large aggregation of Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) engaged in social activity. © naturepl.com / Tony Wu / WWF

Whale facts

Whales are the largest living creatures on the planet. In fact, the blue whale is known as the largest animal to have ever existed – reaching up to 30m in length and weighing up to 180,000kg.

They roam throughout all of the world’s oceans, and at least 30 species of whales are found in Australia’s waters.

Whales are warm-blooded mammals that give birth to a live oxygen-breathing baby whale that they then nurse for up to two years, depending on the species of whale.. They have a thick insulating layer of flat known as blubber that allows them to keep warm in cold waters.

Whales may eat and sleep underwater but they don’t have gills and can’t extract oxygen from the water - needing to breathe in air just like humans.

Want to know how whales sleep and what they like to eat?

Read more whale facts here

Meet some of the whale family

Australia's extensive coastline provides a wide range of aquatic habitats. Consequently, at least 45 species of whale, dolphin and porpoise are found in Australian waters, including 10 large whales, 20 smaller whales.

Two species of whales are listed as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act - the blue whale and the southern right whale. 

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) calf male with injured pectoral fin and scarred body= with mother in the Pacific Ocean
© naturepl.com / Tony Wu / WWF

Why whales matter

We love to watch these majestic mammals as they migrate through our waters every year.

Growing evidence shows thriving populations of whales are also essential to a healthy ocean and planet. The benefits they provide – from capturing carbon to enhancing marine productivity – only strengthen the case for protecting them.

Whales fertilise the marine ecosystems they move through and support the marine life inhabiting them. By feeding at depth and defecating at surface, whales boost phytoplankton production, which captures about 40% of all carbon dioxide produced and generates over half of the atmosphere’s oxygen.

When they die, whales sink to the seabed, taking the huge amounts of carbon they’ve accumulated in their bodies out of the atmosphere for centuries. Altogether, over its lifetime, one whale captures the same amount of carbon as thousands of trees.

This contribution to ocean productivity benefits nature, people and their livelihoods, and major global industries.

By restoring whale populations, we can help restore ocean ecosystems and mitigate and build resilience to climate change - helping nature help itself and all of us who depend on it.

Two southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), one looking up at photographer. Ninety Mile Beach near Lakes Entrance, Victoria.
Two southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), one looking up at photographer. Ninety Mile Beach near Lakes Entrance, Victoria. © Chris Farrell Nature Photography / WWF-Aus

The biggest threats to Australia’s whales

These threats often occur in concert and overlap with critical whale habitats and migration routes, working to create a hazardous and, at times, fatal obstacle course for whales travelling between breeding and foraging areas.

What WWF is doing to help whales

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) near surface. Pico Island, Azores, Portugal
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) near surface. Pico Island, Azores, Portugal © naturepl.com / Luis Quinta / WWF

Securing critical ocean habitats for whales by uniting key southern hemisphere countries to protect 100 million hectares of ocean.

By working with our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region to support global goals of protecting 30% of our oceans by 2030.  We are also partnering with First Peoples, governments, industry and coastal communities to achieve impact at scale to protect seascapes and Saltwater Country. 

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Safeguarding whale superhighways to protect existing whale populations and connect their critical habitats and migration corridors.

By calling on the Australian Government at all levels to play its part and build on its track record of protecting whales as well as recognising the critical role Traditional Owners and local communities play in protecting and managing the marine environment and supporting their aspirations to do so. 

Read more
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Securing a healthy climate for – and with – whales.

By supporting Australia to become a global leader in securing a healthy and resilient net-zero world. This will help mitigate the impacts of climate change on people, the planet, and the wildlife and natural places we work to protect - including whales and oceans. As growing evidence shows, whales play a vital ecological role for our oceans and climate, and we need to integrate their protection and recovery into international and national climate and biodiversity policies.

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