7 Endangered Ocean Species and Marine Animals

by Gaute H. April 02, 2023 4 min read

Ocean landscape

The National Endangered Species Day

Every year on the third Friday in May, the National Endangered Species Day is celebrated to encourage people to take action to help endangered species. Here at Oceanness, we want to highlight the importance of this day by educating and raising awareness about conservation, restoration and biodiversity.

According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, about 30% of all known species are at risk of extermination, and a large portion are marine animals. Overfishing, bycatch, commercial hunting, and marine pollution are all major contributors to the significant decline in population for these poor animals.


Vaquita is a small, timid and highly elusive dolphin found exclusively on Mexico's Gulf of California. It is easily recognizable by its distinctive panda eyes with dark circles around its eyes.

Unfortunately, this rare ocean animal is on the brink of extinction only a half-century after its first sighting. In fact, it is estimated that only 10 individuals still exist in the wild.

Rampant and unregulated fishing practices, particularly the use of gill nets, in its limited habitats have led to the sharp decline in the vaquita population. Bycatching alone, whereby large amounts of unwanted ocean animals are captured during fishing, have led to a 94% vaquita population decline between 1997 and 2016.

Sea otter
Sea Otter

The adorable sea otter is one of the smallest marine mammals on earth, and can live their entire life without ever leaving the water. They also play a critical role in our ecosystem, feeding on sea urchins which allows kelp forests to thrive. Sea otters are also special in that they are one of just a few species that actually use tools to survive, as they use rocks to crack open shells.

Sea otters used to be a common species with a population of several hundred thousand. However, fur trade resulted in a drastically decreased population. At one point, there were only 2,000 sea otters in the world. Gladly, since the international ban on large-scale commercial hunting in 1911, its population has increased to about 100,000. Yet, they are still considered endangered today as they face threats like plastic pollution, oil spills, and entanglement in fishing nets.

Hawksbill turtle
Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill turtle, named for their narrow, pointed beak, is the most endangered species of turtle in the world. In fact, they are classified as critically endangered by IUCN with an estimated global population of only 8,000.

One of the key reasons for the decline in hawksbill turtle population is deliberate hunting. Hawksbill turtles have beautiful shells and a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that form a sawlike edge. The shells are sold illegally to create jewelry. The ban on commercial trade of tortoiseshell that was introduced in 1973 has unfortunately been insufficient in halting the decline of these beautiful animals.

Galápagos penguin
Galápagos Penguin

The Galápagos penguin is the only penguin species found north of the equator. It's the smallest of the South American penguin species and generally live for 15 to 20 years. They are also one of the few animals in the world that mate with one partner for life.

Sadly, the Galápagos penguin is an endangered species with less than 2,000 left in the world. Climate change involving warming ocean temperatures and declining food sources have led to the sharp decline of its population. They are also threatened by marine pollution and entanglement in abandoned fishing equipment.  

Blue whale
Blue Whale

Blue whales are the largest living mammals on earth. In fact, their tongue alone weigh as much as an elephant. Sitting on top of the food chain, whales have a significant role in maintaining a healthy marine environment.

Unfortunately, excessive commercial hunting has drastically decreased its population and now has threatened its mere existence even though an international ban was constituted in 1996. Vessel strikes and entanglements in abandoned fishing nets are major threats for blue whales today. The global population of blue whales is estimated to be only 10,000-25,000.

Hawaiian monk sealHawaiian Monk Seal

The Hawaiian Monk Seal are earless seals native to Hawaii. It is one of the few seals who live on warm beaches. Unfortunately, they are one of the most endangered groups of seals with a drastically decreasing population.

According to recent research, only 1,400 Hawaiian Monk Seal remain on the Islands. Historically, the Hawaiian monk seal was heavily poached and hunted for its meat, oil, and skin. More recent threats however include marine pollution and entanglement in fishing nets.

Whale shark
Whale Shark

Although these huge sea creatures are called "whale sharks", they are not actually whales, but filter-feeding sharks. Whale sharks are the world's largest fish and are commonly known as the "gentle giants". They provide habitat and shelter for smaller ocean creatures and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with tuna, making them vital to the resiliance of tropical marine ecosystems.

Today, whale sharks are considered endangered, facing threats like the fishing industry, vessel strikes, and plastic pollution. As filter feeders, whale sharks are at a great risk of ingesting toxic or indigestible pollutants like plastic.

A fragile ecosystem that needs protection

Our ecosystem comprises interdependent animals and plants, constituting a complex web of life. This biodiversity is vital to the existance of our planet. Hence, conservation efforts are of significant importance. Many of today's endangered species can be revitalized with conscious efforts. But the clock is ticking.

The first step is to raise awareness, so share this with a friend or family member, and educate others.


Source: Greenpeace, Earth Org.

Gaute H.
Gaute H.

Founder of Oceanness. Enjoys the ocean, hanging out with friends, and exploring the world. Favorite ocean animal: Dolphins.

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