Fin Whales

Fin whales are the second largest whale. They can reach lengths of over 80 feet and weigh more than 160,000 lbs. A fin whale’s blow can rise 20 feet and can be seen for several miles. These whales are extremely fast, sleek, and muscular, and are sometimes referred to as “the greyhounds of the sea” they can reach a speed of 29 mph. These whales feed on a wide array of species, ranging from small fish such as herring, mackerel, to krill, copepods, and squid. A variety of feeding techniques are employed in order to concentrate prey, essentially fin whales are “gulpers,” taking in large quantities of food and water in each mouthful.

Fin whales get their name from the prominent dorsal fin, situated about 2/3 of the way back from the head. They also have a distinctive V-shaped pattern of coloration around their heads called chevrons. They may also have dark eye stripes and ear stripes which form a pattern called a blaze. Dorsal fin shape, chevron, and blaze patterns along with scars can be used to identify these whales. They can dive to depths of over 600 feet and can remain submerged for 30 minutes. Typically, they remain near the surface for a series of breaths every 10-12 seconds and will then go into a dive. When feeding near the surface, dives can last about 3 minutes. Fin whales arch their backs as they go into a dive but usually do not show their flukes.

Fin whales, like other masticates, are solitary animals, but can be seen feeding in groups of 3-20 when food is abundant. The one and only stable association in fin whales are between a mother and her calf, which last for approximately 6-7 months. There are about 20,000 fin whales in the North Pacific, although researchers do not have enough data to determine the fin whale’s population it seems that fin whale numbers have increased over the past decade.