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The Rarest Marine Animals in the World & Where You Can See Them

a fish swimming under water

Would it surprise you to learn that many species in the world’s oceans are endangered or threatened? 37% of rays and sharks, 26% of marine mammals, and 21% of marine reptiles have significantly reduced populations and are on the threatened or endangered lists. This doesn’t include octopi, seahorses, corals, and many other species. These are some rare ocean animals you may find interesting. 

What Is the #1 Rarest Marine Animal in the World?

The rarest marine animal is the vaquita, but this animal is also the most endangered. However, the Hawaiian monk seal is also critically endangered, making it one of the rarest sea creatures. Like the vaquita, which is only found in one location, the Hawaiian monk seal is also only found in the Hawaiian archipelago. Only two monk seal species remain in the world’s oceans, and the Hawaiian monk seal has experienced significant population depletion due to hunting and poaching, limited food sources, and entanglement in fishing nets.

a fish swimming under water

What Are the Rarest Marine Life Animals?

While it is not the rarest sea animal, the hawksbill turtle population has declined by 80% over the last 100 years. Like other species, getting an accurate count of the remaining population is challenging, but a recent estimate puts the number at 8,000 females.

The North Atlantic Right Whale is also endangered and rare. It is the most endangered whale worldwide. These baleen whales feed on crustaceans, but their prey availability has become threatened. In addition, they have reached near extinction due to hunting. They also get tangled in fishing nets, hit by fishing vessels, and experience stress due to ocean noise that disrupts their communication. Approximately 360 whales, with 70 females who reproduce regularly, remain.

Pigmy seahorses are tiny (0.55 to 1.06 inches) and live in coral reefs on gorgonian coral. They are purple and pink or yellow and orange, depending on the color of their coral homes. Habitat loss and pollution, in addition to rising ocean temperatures, threaten these species.

Coral Reefs are also rare. Many are endangered due to changes in their ecosystems caused by pollution and warming temperatures. Coral lives in a mere two percent of the ocean, but up to 15% of marine life find their homes in coral. Unfortunately, reefs have lost 14% of their corals since 2009, and this decline may reach up to 90% due to ocean temperatures. Chagos brain coral is the rarest species in the oceans.

Whale sharks are the largest ocean species and one of the most endangered. They live in tropical marine waters in the Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Oceans. Noise and water pollution, as well as fishing and boating traffic, threaten these animals. Despite a 50% decline in the last 75 years, 103,000 whale sharks roam the world’s oceans.

What Is the Most Endangered Sea Creature in the Ocean in 2024?

The vaquita, a porpoise discovered in 1958, is the rarest marine mammal. It is critically endangered and often drowns in gillnets, which are frequently used in illegal fishing in its habitat. Unfortunately, an estimated ten vaquita remain.

In many cases, these fishing operations try to catch an endangered species called the totoaba, which is in high demand in China despite the trade ban and shrimp sold in the U.S.

They live only in shallower waters near the coast in Mexico’s Gulf of California. They are also vulnerable to boats but swim quickly away and are relatively small, at 65-120 pounds and five feet long.

Due to its unexplored depths, scientists do not know all the rare and endangered creatures that roam the world’s oceans.