Before Arctic whaling commenced, Icewhales were found in immense numbers along the entire coast of Spitsbergen. The species has been hunted extensively for their fat and baleens most notably by the Netherlands.

Icewhales have a near-circumpolar distribution around the ice shield covering the Arctic Ocean. After industrial whaling stopped mid-20th century the species was marked on the Red List as ‘very rare’. The current IUCN-status of the species is ‘least concern’ because global population size increased. However, two of four recognized populations, Spitsbergen and Okhotsk, are still listed as ‘endangered’. Notwithstanding the species overall status ‘least concern’, the current estimated number of Icewhales is a faint reflection of pre-whaling population sizes, while new threats arise.