About the CSG

Peales Dolphin, Lagenorynchus australis, photographed in the Chiloé Archipelago, Chile. Photo: Sonja Heinrich

The IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group (CSG) is one of the more than 100 Specialist Groups and Task Forces that constitute the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is a science-based network of some 7,500 volunteer experts from almost every country in the world. Some specialist groups, such as the CSG, address conservation issues related to particular groups of plants or animals while others focus on topical issues, such as the reintroduction of species into former habitats or wildlife health. The SSC’s major role is to provide information to IUCN on biodiversity conservation, to provide scientific advice to conservation organizations, government agencies and other IUCN members, and to support the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

CSG – Expert advice for science-based conservation

A rare shot of the elusive Hectors beaked whale (Mesoplodon hectori) off Western Australia

A rare shot of the elusive Hectors beaked whale (Mesoplodon hectori) off Western Australia. Photo: Nick Gales

  • Since the 1960s, the Cetacean Specialist Group (CSG) has played a major role in identifying conservation problems for the world’s whales, dolphins and porpoises. Many cetacean species face grave threats to their continued existence. The baiji is likely to be extinct and the vaquita and North Atlantic right whale have populations in the low hundreds. Local populations of other species have disappeared and others are seriously imperilled. CSG members play a leading role in providing species assessments for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the group provides global reviews and associated action plans at regular intervals. The most recent action plan “Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises: 2002-2010 Conservation Action Plan for the World’s Cetaceans” provides a comprehensive review of scientific information for cetaceans worldwide, identifies threats to their survival and recommends specific conservation actions.
Sousa teuszii travelling along coast

Sousa teuszii, Atlantic humpback dolphin, travelling along the coast off Flamingos, Namibe Province, Angola. Photo: Caroline R. Weir

  • The CSG currently has 114 members worldwide who contribute significant experience and technical expertise to the growing pool of knowledge about cetaceans. With ongoing revision and debate about how they should be classified, there are currently 90 recognised cetacean species. These animals live in a variety of habitats, from the high seas far beyond the national jurisdiction of any country, to the shallow freshwater rivers, lakes and coastal waters of southern Asia and South America. Some species are highly migratory, requiring vast areas of ocean to move between feeding and calving waters, whilst others reside in particular sections of rivers and coastal waters.  Although the great whales such as the blue, humpback, sperm and right whales are important to the Group’s mission these animals receive a lot of attention, so the CSG focuses more on smaller species, often lesser-known and in developing countries, that are particularly threatened with extinction.
  • The CSG has made a substantial contribution towards establishing and promoting critical priorities, particularly where urgent interventions are needed. It is proud of its achievements but also recognizes that its role is often only the first step and that long-term cetacean conservation depends on the efforts of governments, NGOs and local communities.