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Healthy Seas

Planet Earth needs healthy oceans to survive. And healthy oceans need whales. A massive 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. Yet only just over 5% of the ocean is protected. To protect whales and dolphins, our shared planet (and so ourselves) we must work together to protect more of the places where they live.

Homes for whales


We can do this by establishing marine protected areas, or MPAs. These are stretches of ocean where harmful activities such as oil and gas exploration and certain types of fishing might be restricted, or ships are required to slow down so they don’t hit whales. These MPAs can be close to shore or far from land on the high seas.


1. Working with international bodies and governments to designate protected areas in the places whales and dolphins need them most

  • Our data and proposal led to the formal recognition of a rare feeding and breeding spot for blue whales (the Costa Rica Thermal Dome) as a biologically significant area. We are now working with local conservation group, MarViva, in Costa Rica to create permanent protection there

  • Our petition to the US government to expand Critical Habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales led to nearly 40,000 square miles of protected ocean being declared off the US east coast

2. Carrying out scientific work to help design protected areas in the places all over the world

  • We identified harbour porpoise habitats, prepared detailed background reports and petitioned the governments of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales to better protect porpoises that live in the seas around the UK. The governments listened and six protected areas, amongst them the largest protected area for harbour porpoises in Europe, are now in process of designation around the UK

3. Working with local communities to locate and maintain protected areas

  • From the endemic dolphin populations of South America to the resident orca families in the US, Canadian and Russian North Pacific, we are constantly working at a local level for effective habitat protection

  • Through the collaborative efforts of US conservation groups including WDC, President Obama designated the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean in 2016

Minke whale in Ross Sea
Minke whale in Ross Sea

WDC has been working to support the creation of protected areas for decades. For example:

  • Bangladesh now has its first marine protected area; kick-started by WDC funding

  • WDC has been working with other groups to protect relatively pristine Antarctic seas – home to thousands of whales and dolphins. Governments listened to our call. The world’s largest marine protect area has now been created protecting 1.55 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea

  • WDC helped bring about a seasonal reduced ship speed limit along US east coast reducing threat of injury to North Atlantic right whales by up to 90%


  • £/$ 100 could help us continue our research fieldwork so we can identify the areas that are important for whales and dolphins
  • £/$ 50 could help identify special places in the ocean where whales and dolphins feed, breed, socialize and raise their young
  • £/$ 25 could help us work with governments to understand and eliminate the man-made threats facing whales and dolphins
  • £/$ 10 could help us inform and educate the public about the dangers of plastic litter and help people find ways to reduce single-use plastic


Erich Hoyt leads WDC's international team of experts, working to create safe homes for whales and dolphins. Erich is recognised as a global authority on marine protected areas. He has published 30 peer-reviewed scientific papers and 22 books. He serves as a member of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group and as co-chair of the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Task Force.