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Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Diputación de Málaga
Rorcual común (Balaenoptera physalus)

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


Their back is dark grey and its belly white. The lower jaw is white on the right and grey on the left side. They have a small dorsal fin. There are some streaks on their throat that stretch from the top of the jaw to the navel. The baleen, which is 80 cm long, is blue grey with yellow stretches. The part on the right side is white.

It has between 260 and 480 plates on each side of the mouth. The fin whale can be 22 m long and weigh 75,000 kg. Females are larger than males.


These whales can be seen in all kinds of tropical waters, from warm to cold and polar kinds. This is one of the most popular whales in the Mediterranean Sea though it does not have a typical habitat or an area where it commonly lives.

They can be also seen in different depths. It seems that the key to their distribution is the existence of the food.

How They Live

These whales are pelagic species that prefer oceans although, if it is necessary, they get close to the continental shelf. They can be found alone, in small groups of two or three individuals or bigger groups from six to thirty whales. They can spend from three to ten minutes under water. Their food are small fish such as herrings or anchovies, shellfish (krill) and cephalopods for which they can dive deeper than 200 m.

They feed by opening their mouth in order to fill it with water. Then they expel the water so that their prey would stick to the baleen and then they swallow it.


This species' pregnancy takes between 11 and 12 months. They give births in warm waters. They only have one baby, which can be round 6 m long and can reach 12 m after the breastfeeding. There is no information about their mating habits.

Threats and Conservation Measures in Andalusia

The main threat to these animals is their hunting for the purposes of trade. Therefore, while whaling moratorium is being kept there is hope that this whale's populations are going to be recovered. However, the changes in oceans which can result in lower number of plankton populations, can be a future threat for this species.

Places Where They Can Be Seen

Some beached individuals have been found in all the provinces in Andalusia. The Strait of Gibraltar is where they go through when they migrate from the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, which is why they can be seen all along the coast although the probabilities get higher as you move further from the shore. In April 1999, a large individual was seen on two consecutive days close to the coast while it was swimming along Granada, Málaga and Cádiz towards the Atlantic Ocean.


Until 1986, it was permitted to catch fin whales for local markets. In Andalusia, their whaling lasted from the 19620s to the 1960s. It was preformed by the vessels that belonged to Getares factory from Algeciras in Cádiz. This is one of the fastest whales. They can travel at speeds of over 35 km/h. Differently from some other species, they do not jump out of water. In spite of their size, these whales are also prey to one of the scariest predators in oceans - the orca. Actually, this is why orcas are called 'killer whales', even though they are not whales. It is because they prey on them. However, orcas still have not come to the Malaga's Bay, but there are some of their permanent colonies in the Atlantic Ocean in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Similar Species

The common (northern) minke whale is the most similar to this species. The former one is much smaller, round 11 m, so only a young fin whale can be confused with an adult common minke whale. If you look closely at their pectoral fin, you will surely recognize the common minke whale by its typical white stretch.

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