We used 344 mitochondrial control region (717 bp) sequences from the finless porpoise (genus Neophocaena) from the northwestern Pacific to investigate the extent and manner in which past climatic oscillations may have shaped patterns of genetic diversity for this marine mammal. Both SplitsTree and Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) revealed the presence of a deep divergence among N. phocaenoides in subtropical waters compared with N. asiaeorientalis in temperate waters. Results from Migrate-n indicated that migration increased along the continent during the early Pleistocene period. Migration increased, although to a lesser extent than that during the Pleistocene, along the marginal shelf in the Yellow/Bohai Sea during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) due to a shortening coastline. Our results suggest that the current patterns of genetic diversity of Neophocaena vary at a hierarchy on a temporal and spatial scale, and phylogeographic history should be taken into account when examining species population structure and taxonomy.