U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Twenty-third meeting of the Animals Committee Geneva, (Switzerland), 19-24 April 2008.


The most significant cetacean trade items until commercial whaling all but ceased in the 1990s (aside from scientific exchanges of tissues etc.) were meat and blubber from baleen whales for human consumption. Since then, live dolphins and 'small' whales for display (and to some extent for research, military use, and 'therapy') have become the most significant cetacean 'products' in international trade. Trade in live cetaceans is presently dominated by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.), beluga whales (Debhinapterns leucas) and to a lesser extent killer whales (Orcinus orca) (Fisher and Reeves 2005). In the past, most of the dolphins in trade were common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) originating in the United States, Mexico and the Black Sea, but since the 1980s the United States has essentially stopped its capture-for-export activities and in 2001Mexico implemented a moratorium on live-captures. The source countries for dolphins in trade are now geographically diverse, but Cuba and Japan are currently major source nations for common bottlenose dolphins. Russia is the only current source for belugas. Russia and Japan have become the main potential sources for killer whales since Iceland ceased exporting them in the 1980s or early 1990s.