Whales Today

Whales, dolphins and porpoises, collectively known as cetaceans, are the subject of thousands of hours of research performed annually around the globe. Some researchers use innovative methods and equipment often working in unpredictable conditions. Others pore through historical records to mine them for data. Their collaborative work has informed and enhanced whale conservation efforts by helping shape laws and treaties established to protect whales. 

Questions about current scientific study of whales are on the minds of many of our visitors. This exhibition seeks to answer some common inquiries. The story of human interactions with whales would be incomplete without discussing today's scientific work and the changes made in fishing practices to protect cetaceans.

Located on the mezzanine level of the Jacobs Family Gallery, the exhibit is in full view of our skeletons, which provide an excellent context for this exhibition. Their presence leads to a variety of questions and starting points asked by our visitors: Why do we have skeletons on display? Why/how did these animals die? What are the other major survival threats to whales? What can we do about those threats, both legislatively and personally? How are they protected? What species are hunted now? Why should we care about the future of whale populations? 

These links are provided to give you a chance to dig deeper into the research, technologies and data featured in the exhibition. 


Finding and Identifying Whales

detail from interactive called "Hunt for Knowledge"

Are you curious about exactly how many species of whale, dolphin and porpoise swim our global ocean? Learn more about whales here.

Survival Threats and Conservation Efforts


Learn more via links to videos and  information about the threats of ship collisions with North Atlantic Right Whales, ocean news around the world, conservation efforts and the deadly impact of ocean sounds to cetaceans.

Watkins / Schevill Collection

William Watkins portrait  

Learn more about William Watkins, a pioneer in marine mammal bioacoustics. Links are available to a  finding aid and sound recordings.


Protective Measures

Protective Measures for Whales

Information on the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on 2nd December 1946 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

Fascinating Facts

Whale Watch

A video link from Te Papa Museum explains how ambergris is made, how it finds its way into the ocean and how to do a quick test to find out if your beach discovery is indeed ambergris... plus more fun facts.


Last Modified: January 7, 2016