Fin Whale - Photo Cetacea
Fin Whale Human Influence - Photo Cetacea

Fin Whale

Fin Whale Facts

Latin Name: Balaenoptera Physalus

The Fin Whale is found throughout every ocean in the world, from the tropics to the polar regions, but is rarely seen inshore. They migrate to polar waters in summer for feeding and return to warmer seas in winter for breeding.


Linnaeus classified the Fin Whale in 1758, calling it Balaenoptera physalus.

Local Names

Finhval (Norway); Finnhvaler (Iceland); Finnhval (Germany); Finval (Russia); Vinvisch (Netherlands); Finn; Finback; Common Rorqual; Razorback (derived from the sharply ridged tail stock displayed when the whale dives); Finner; Herring Whale.


This is a streamlined whale, second in size to only the Blue Whale. The dorsal fin – which often slopes backwards – is set about two-thirds back along the body, and is not as erect as in the Sei Whale or Minke Whale. The flukes are broad and triangular, and the head is pointed. It is dark-grey to brownish-black in colour, with white undersides and between 55-100 throat grooves. There are 520-950 baleen plates per animal, the largest of which is 90cm in length. The Fin Whale is between 19-22.3m long, with the longest recorded animal at 26m; females are generally larger. It weighs between 45-75 tonnes.

Recognition at Sea

The Fin Whale is almost identical to other rorquals, apart from the fact that it is larger than all others except the Blue Whale. To distinguish between the Fin and the Blue, the Fin’s dorsal appears rapidly after the blow, unlike the Blue’s, which takes longer to appear because of the sheer size of the animal. The Fin Whale’s blow is a slim, inverse cone rising about 6m clear of the water.

Food & Feeding

The Fin Whale specialises in ‘gulping’ euphausiids (tiny plankton), different species of which are preferred in different geographical locations. Some fish, such as herring and capelin, as well as squid, are also taken as food.


Fin Whales are more gregarious in manner than other rorquals, and are usually found either in pairs (as in mother and calf) or in groups of 6-10 animals. Although individuals are also common, congregations of approximately 100 can be found on the feeding grounds. The Fin Whale dives to a maximum of about 300m and communicates via moans, pulses, clicks, and grunts, as well as breaching.


Approximately 60 years.

Estimated Current Population

50-100,000 animals. Vulnerable.

The Influence of Man

When the stocks of Blue Whales became severely depleated from commercial whaling, attention turned to the other rorquals, in particular the Fin Whale. Despite becoming a protected species in the 1976, the damage had already been done: at the peak during the 1950s and 60s, Fin Whale catches were in excess of 30,000 animals per year. It is doubtful that this species will ever recover and return to original population levels.


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