Fin whales, or finback whales, are the second largest species, second only to the biggest whale, the Blue whale. The whale has also been referred to as the herring whale or razorback whale. This species can be found almost any ocean on Earth except the most northern parts of our world. It is not scientifically-agreed upon how many Fin whales are living near Antarctica in the Southern Ocean, but last population estimates were approximately 38,000 (1997).
Fin Whales are only absent from the poles themselves and a few small areas such as the Red Sea. They live in polar, temperate, and tropical waters and they do migrate. Highest population densities occur in cold and temperate waters like the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. Surprisingly little is yet known or understood regarding the migratory patterns of each of the 2-3 subspecies of Fin Whale.
Finback Whales enjoy colder waters because of the abundance of food found in cold mineral-rich waters.
Up to 85 feet in length (25.9 meters) for the Southern Fin Whale. For the other Finback Whale subspecies, the longest found has been an 82 foot (25 meters) female that was caught off the coast of Scotland in the early 20th Century. A newborn Fin Whale measures 19.7-21.3 feet in length (6-6.5 meters).
Antarctic Fin Whales (Southern Fin Whales) are the heaviest recorded specimens. It’s estimated that the longest Fin Whales would be around 84 tons (76 tonnes) up to 125.5 tons (114 tonnes). A newborn Fin Whale weighs around 4,000 lbs (1800 kg).
An adult Fin Whale (75 tons) weighs the same as 10 large elephants weighing 15,000 lbs. each. The largest Fins might weigh as much as nearly 17 large elephants!
Yes, they are endangered. Fins, like most other whales, were hunted for oil, meat, and baleen. Certain Northern Pacific populations – especially in East Asia – are critically endangered and possibly extinct. However, populations near Canada and the United States are showing growth again since whaling ended in 1979. Nonetheless, all subspecies of Fin Whale are considered endangered and the population sizes are much smaller than they were before commercial whaling by humans began.
Antarctic Southern Fin Whales had an estimated population of 400,000 prior to whaling. When whaling stopped in 1979, the population was estimated to stand at around 85,200. However, the methods used for this estimate were flawed. Currently, it’s believed that there are only between 15,000 and 40,000 remaining.
Worldwide the population of all Fins is estimated to range from less than 100,000 up to 119,000.
Fin Whales have been called “the greyhound of the sea” for their speed. They are the fastest whales on earth traveling at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.
They eat crustaceans – mostly krill, squid, and other small fish. Just like other non-toothed whales, Fins have baleen. Baleen is like a comb, filtering out the swallowed water, yet these bristles trap prey inside.
Finbacks spend around three hours eating per day if there is an abundance. Each mouthful can contain around 22 lbs (10 kg) of food and they will consume up to 3,960 lbs (1,800 kg) in one day.
Some countries are still setting quotas allowing a certain number of Fin Whales to be hunted per year. Iceland and Norway seem to be encouraging this practice to continue. Many of the hunted whale products are being sent to Japan for sushi, dog food, and other products.
For example, Iceland has a 2018 quota allowance of 209 Fin Whales – the highest level in a decade – that it is allowing commercial hunting for. The quotas were not approved by the International Whaling Commission. Iceland is facing growing pressure from the United States and others to stop the practice of killing endangered whales like the Fin and Minke.
Cruise ships traveling to and from the Antarctic Peninsula are most likely to see Fin Whales in the Drake Passage. Nonetheless, Finback Whales might be observed in oceanic water traveled on an Antarctic cruise.
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