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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Fin Whale
Balaenoptera physalus

What Are They Like?

The fin whale is the world's second largest animal after the blue whale. An adult can grow to 62-72 feet (19-22 meters) in length and weigh about 77 tons (70 metric tons). The fin whale's long, slender body gradually tapers down towards its tail fins. Its head is flat on top and V-shaped. The streamlined shape of its body allows it to swim at speeds of up to 23 miles (37 kilometers) per hour. A prominent dorsal fin measuring 24 inches (60 centimeters), is located on its lower back. The sides and backs of fin whales are typically light grey to brownish- black, and their undersides are paler. On average, the lifespan of a fin whale is 75 years.

Where Do They Live?

Fin whales inhabit the open ocean, and are found in tropical, temperate, and sub-polar waters worldwide.

Did You Know?
Fin whales are known to swim around schools of fish to condense their distribution for easier consumption.

How Are Babies Made?

Fin whales are often seen in pairs and are believed to be monogamous. They migrate to warmer waters to breed and give birth. Female whales give birth to a single calf once every two to three years and have a gestation period that lasts about 11 months. Calves are born measuring about 20 feet (6 meters) in length, and weighing between 7,700-7,900 pounds (3,500-3,600 kilograms).

What Do They Eat?

The fin whale's diet consists primarily of krill, small fish, crustaceans and squid. An adult fin whale can consume up to two tons (1.8 metric tons) of food in a single day.

Did You Know?
Fin whales have two blowholes.

What Do They Do?

Fin whales are usually found in groups known as "pods" that contain six or seven individuals. They are very social and are known to congregate in large groups to feed. They do not have teeth; instead there are several strips of flexible, comb-like baleen plates that hang from the upper jawbone. During feeding, the whale takes in large volumes of water and then expels it. The baleen plates act as a filter and trap food so the whale is able to swallow it.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps a "Red List" of species in danger worldwide, lists the fin whale as "endangered." Fin whales have no natural predators. Their largest threats come from human activities. The commercial whaling industry was the main cause behind the depletion of whale populations in the early 20th century. It is estimated that in the 1950s, more than 10,000 whales were hunted each year. In 1976 the International Whaling Commission set a zero limit for whale catches in the North Pacific and Southern hemisphere. Commercial whaling was halted in the North Atlantic by 1990. However, in 2006 the commercial whaling resumed in Iceland, with nine whales caught that year. Japanese fleets have also resumed catching whales for experimental purposes. Additional threats include: entanglement in fishing gear, accidentally being struck by ships, and adverse changes to their environment caused by noise and water pollution.

What's Being Done?

Fin whales are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means international trade of fin whales is strictly forbidden. This does not apply to Iceland, Norway and Japan. In August of 2010 the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service prepared a recovery plan for the fin whale, which lays out detailed conservation efforts needed to protect them.


Fin Whale

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