Some cetacean species’ distribution is limited while others are found worldwide. Large species like blue, humpback, and fin whales are located globally, although they have their own groups and, in some cases, subspecies that have their own range.
Some whales, like belugas, narwhals, and bowheads, typically spend their whole lives in arctic regions. While these animals still do migrate, they normally remain in arctic waters. Some strays have been observed outside of the arctic. For example, three belugas were seen in Rhode Island waters in 2015. A lone bowhead was seen off Cape Cod in 2012 and 2014.
There are few endemic cetaceans in warmer water, with a famous example being the near-extinct vaquita in Mexico, along with some species of dolphins.
In the U.S. certain endangered species, such as the North Atlantic right whale, receive extra protection via the selection of foraging and calving areas as critical habitat. As defined by the Endangered Species Act, this is ‘specific geographic areas that contain features essential to the conservation of an endangered or threatened species and that may require special management and protection’. This protection dictates that ‘all Federal agencies must ensure that any actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species, or destroy or adversely change its designated critical habitat’.