Fin Whale

General information
Quick Facts
Order Cetacea
Suborder Mysticete (Baleen)
Family Balaenopteridae
Species Balaenoptera physalus
Status Endangered
Weight Average 80 tons, up to 140 tons
Diet Schooling fish, krill, squid, and other planktonic invertebrates
Size Average 70 feet, up to 89 feet
Home Worldwide in temperate and subpolar waters

Where Do Fin Whales Live?

How Do I Know it is a Fin Whale?

Fin whales are the second largest whale and can be easily confused with blue whales because of their large size. Fin whales, however, have a very distinctive dorsal fin and asymmetrical coloration. While blue whales have a somewhat stumpy dorsal fin and are uniformly grayish in color, fin whales have a very pronounced and falcate dorsal fin and have a whitish face on the right side and a gray face on the left side. Additionally the baleen, tongue and mouth cavity are also colored this way! Fin whales also have a pale v-shape behind their head.

Fin whales rarely show their flukes (tails.) However, they are known to breach, or come out of the water, splashing down on their sides in a spectacular display. Fin whales are indifferent to boats and will rarely approach or show curiosity. It was reported that one fin whale decided to scratch it’s back on the bottom of the Sea Explorer one day – to the delight and surprise of passengers and crew! Like other rorquals, the fin whale is thought to migrate to cooler waters in the summer time and warmer waters in the winter time. There is a resident population in the Gulf of California. Fin whales travel are found in larger groups than many of the other rorquals – usually in pods of 2-10. Like blue whales, fin whales use low frequency calls to communicate with other fin whales over long distances.

Human Impact

Hunting fin whales was banned in 1986. Fin whales, like other rorquals, were not hunted until the early 20th century because of their great speed. It took the mechanization of boats and harpoons for whalers to be able to capture fin whales. When blue whales became depleted, whalers switched to fin whales. Because they are slow growing, and slow to reproduce, their populations are slow to rebound. A few whales are taken each year by local populations in Greenland and for scientific purposes.

Wurtz, M. and Repetto, N. 2003. Dolphins and Whales. White Star S.r.I. Vercelli, Italy

Eder, T. and Sheldon, I. 2002. Whales and Other Marine Mammals of California and Baja. Lone Pine Publishing, Canada.