The 10 Most Endangered Sea Animals

We shed light on 10 of the world's most endangered sea animals. As our oceans grapple with the challenges of plastic pollution, over-fishing, and global warming, these extraordinary creatures find themselves on the precipice of extinction.

10. Whale Shark

Single large male shark top view in Maldives

The whale shark is the largest fish, and indeed the largest shark in the sea. They live in warm tropical waters, and have a huge appetite for plankton!

Sadly, these gentle giants are an endangered ocean species due to legal and illegal fishing operations. They are hunted for oil, meat, and even their fins. Shark fin is a highly sought-after delicacy in Asia.

The larger the fin, the more valuable they are, hence why whale sharks are targeted. This cruel act is referred to as ‘finning’ which is when the fin of a live shark is sliced off and the animal is essentially left to die.

Although their exact population is unknown, a lack of sightings has placed the status of the whale shark as an endangered animal in a vulnerable situation, unfortunately along with many other types of sharks.

9. Hawksbill Turtle

An Endangered Hawksbill Turtle swimming in open ocean

The hawksbill turtle is the most critically endangered of all sea turtle species.

Found within reefs of the Indo-Pacific and central Atlantic, they are easily recognised by their distinctive shell and beak-like jaws.

There are a number of reasons why the hawksbill turtle is one of the most endangered animals in the ocean.

The beautiful marble effect of their stunning carapace (tortoiseshell) have long been desired for fashion, jewelry and accessories. Unfortunately trade is still rife, despite international bans on the shell being sold.

Hawksbill turtle meat and eggs are also considered a delicacy in many cultures, and are heavily harvested for consumption. However this can be lethal since the turtles feed on a specific type of coral sponge which contains a toxin which causes kidney disease, liver dysfunction and even death in humans.

Largely, the hawksbill turtle remains one of the most endangered sea creatures because of pollution. Illegal fishing nets, plastic ingestion, coastal development and climate change are all having a detrimental affect making them one of the most endangered ocean species.

The good news is, the conservation of sea turtles is now at an all time high so there is hope for this endangered marine animal. Show your love for this endangered species with our handpicked sea turtle gifts.

8. Vaquita Porpoise

Most endangered sea creature – Vaquita Porpoise washed ashore in shallow water

The vaquita porpoise, or ‘little cow’ in Spanish, is found in shallow waters along the Gulf of California. Their distinctive (and rather adorable) markings include dark rings around their face, lips and eyes.

It is thought that there are less than 30 of these cetaceans left in the wild, making them the single most critically endangered marine species on the planet.

Although never directly hunted, their population is in great decline due to accidental entanglement. The vaquita is frequently caught within fixed fishing nets (gillnets) used by illegal operators in Mexico. Since they cannot surface, the poor animals are unable to breath and drown within minutes.

Work is being done to ban gill-net fishing in the area, however it is the illegal operators which are the main cause for the decline of this species.

Sadly, the vaquita was only discovered in 1958 and being the most endangered animal in the ocean, they are perilously close to extinction. Help save the vaquita porpoise from extinction.

7. Blue Whale

Most Endangered Marine life Blue whale swimming near surface

It is hard to believe that the largest animal known to man is one of the most endangered animals in the ocean.

During the industrial revolution whaling was big business, and blue whales were hunted for their meat and blubber which was used in the production of oil, soap, perfume and cosmetics.

Commercial hunting lead the blue whale alarmingly close to becoming an extinct marine animal, however in 1966 they were protected by the International Whaling Commission.

Although commercial whaling is no longer a threat to blue whales, their dwindling population now faces new threats like climate change and pollution, making the blue whale one of the oceans most endangered sea creatures.

Show your love for whales or adopt a blue whale from the WWF.

6. Sea Otter

Two Sea Otters swimming on their back

The sea otter is one of the smallest endangered ocean species. If you’re hoping to spot one of these cuties in the wild, they are most commonly found in California.

sea otters play a vital role in our ecosystem by feeding on sea urchins which help keep kelp forests thriving.

Unfortunately, the reason sea otters are endangered is a very sad one. They have the densest fur in the animal kingdom, which makes a highly desirable pelt for the fur trade.

There is now an international ban on commercial hunting, however sea otters remain one of the most endangered sea animals because of pollution, oil spills and fishing net entanglement.

5. Galápagos Penguin

Group of Galápagos Penguins on standing on rock

This tropical penguin is endemic to the Galápagos Islands, and is the only penguin species which lives so far north. They have adapted to survive in warmer climes, and spend the majority of their time in the water.

The biggest threat facing this endangered ocean species is climate change.

The Galápagos penguin relies heavily on the Humboldt current, which in recent years has begun to fluctuate in temperature particularly during El Niño.

In 1982-1983, 77% of the Galápagos penguin population died, and only 15 years later they were threatened again with yet another El Niño.

These extreme temperature changes are happening more and more frequently, making the Galápagos penguin one of the most endangered sea animals.

4. Hector's Dolphin

Rare and endangered Hector’s dolphin above and below water shot

The Hector’s dolphin is the rarest marine dolphin in the world. This critically endangered dolphin is found in the shallow waters off of North Island in New Zealand.

Their cartoon-like appearance is often compared to Mickey Mouse with their round dorsal fin.

The main threat to the Hector's dolphin is bycatch. Since they live so close to the shore, they are often accidentally entangled in recreational and commercial fishing nets, gillnets in particular.

These dolphins are also endangered because of pollution from humans since they live so close to the shore. Their natural habitat is affected by coastal development, boat traffic and seabed mining.

The good news is, in 2012 New Zealand agreed to ban a section of gillnet fishing within the dolphins habitat, but this must be expanded to ensure the survival of this endangered marine species.

3. Humphead Wrasse

Large Marine Humphead Wrasse close up

The eye-catching humphead wrasse is a characterful reef fish with large lips and a distinctive forehead, often admired by snorkelers and divers.

They frequent reef drop-offs in the Indo-Pacific, Central Pacific, East Africa and Red Sea.

The Humphead Wrasse are known to chomp their way through crustaceans and even the crown of thorns starfish, which destroy coral reefs.

Over the last 30 years, the population of these gigantic reef fish has declined as much as 90% due to them being in-demand in the gourmet food industry, especially in Asia.

Global warming is also having an affect since the wrasse live on coral reefs which are suffering from bleaching and decline due to rising ocean temperatures.

2. Hawaiian Monk Seal

Cute Hawaiian Monk Seal sleeping on Sandy beach

The adorable Hawaiian monk is one of the very few species of seal to live in the tropics. When they’re not swimming and diving, they enjoy sunbathing on the land.

The Caribbean monk seal is already extinct from bycatch and hunting, and with only 1,200 Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild, their future remains unsure.

While the northern Hawaiian islands, such as Kauai, are the most common spots to see monk seals due to their proximity to feeding grounds, there is still a chance to encounter these incredible creatures while snorkeling in Maui. One of the best areas for potential sightings is the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve in south Maui.

Additionally, Oahu, particularly Kahe Point Beach Park, offers another opportunity to spot monk seals.

1. North Atlantic Right Whale

An endangered breaching North Atlantic right whale

There are only around 400 North Atlantic right whales left in our oceans and deaths are increasing each year. 

Due to a great deal of oily blubber they carry, these whales were targeted heavily by hunters and almost reached extinction in the early 20th Century until a ban was put in place in 1937. Sadly, the species never truly recovered and has been in decline ever since.

The whales migrate through the Atlantic coastal waters from Canada all the way down to Florida, a route which often overlaps with shipping lanes, making them a prime target for boat strikes.

Today, this is primarily why the North Atlantic right whale is an endangered ocean species facing extinction.

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Omg most of thees animals are so cute but yet they might be gone soon but we can at least help by not littering so please do anything to help!

sarah October 14, 2023

Actually, Vaquitas are the most endangered with about ten left ^^

Someone July 21, 2023

I also feel so bad for the endangered animals

Aneena June 02, 2023

I fell so bad for them number 1 is so cute. thanks it helping me a lot in my project too

Ayush chatterjee May 18, 2023

nicely organized. this will help my geography presentation about endangered animals. thank you.

kelly lee kwak May 14, 2023

Thank you this help me for my science project

Kayle April 05, 2023

thank you for this information. hopfully e can find a way to help these animals! <3

hayhay March 09, 2023

This helps a lot with my project and I feel so bad for the animals that are endangered:(((

Rosa November 03, 2022

there are 8 vaquitas, and it’s so sad! im very sad about the blue whales and the whale sharks too. but this has really helped with some of my college stuff! thanks <3

SiimplyKareen September 05, 2022

this is truly sad but this helped me with my photo essay pls add more animals that are in danger

paviwavy June 25, 2022

I feel so bad for them.

non ya February 14, 2022

I love all the information you have given me about these animals. This will help me a lot with my paper in ELA. THANKS<3

Anna Antle October 21, 2021

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