IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category Year Assessed
Near Threatened Red List Criteria Version
Jefferson, T.A., Karczmarski, L., Laidre, K., O’Corry-Crowe, G., Reeves, R.R., Rojas-Bracho, L., Secchi, E.R., Slooten, E., Smith, B.D., Wang, J.Y. & Zhou, K. Reviewer/s
Brownell Jr., R.L. & Cooke, J. (Cetacean Red List Authority) Justification
The narwhal was assessed previously (1996) as Data Deficient. The aggregate circumpolar population of narwhals is probably greater than 80,000 (all ages). At the global level the species does not qualify for a threatened status under any of the criteria, although there is substantial uncertainty about numbers and trends in large parts of the range and clear evidence of decline for specific subpopulations (NAMMCO/JCNB 2005). The intense hunting (including associated loss due to wounding and sinking) in Greenland and Canada gives cause for concern, particularly given the lack of reliable data on hidden mortality and serious injury. Given that uncertainty, and the fact that cessation of national and international, taxon-specific conservation programs that currently monitor and manage hunting could result in the narwhal’s qualifying for threatened status (under criterion A) within five years, the species should be listed as Near Threatened. The narwhal is unquestionably a conservation-dependent species. History
Across the global range of the species, subpopulations are subject to differing levels of threat and warrant individual assessment. Therefore, a caveat for the global listing as Near Threatened is that it assumes national and international management authorities will continue to monitor and manage harvest levels. Hunting with modern equipment in specific parts of Greenland and Canada represents the most long-standing and consistent threat to narwhals throughout their range. Several small and/or depleted subpopulations (e.g. West Greenland and Hudson Bay) warrant individual assessment as an immediate priority.