Fin Whale

Marine Creature:  Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) 

Kindly compiled by Planet Whale

General Description

The second largest of the great whales (after the Blue whale), Fin Whales are usually observed singly or in pairs, sometimes in small pods, and occasionally in large aggregations where food is plentiful. They are very streamlined, very fast swimmers and have regularly been recorded lunge feeding and occasionally breaching, although they also sometimes travel leisurely just below the surface with the back appearing quite flat.

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale


The Fin Whale occurs throughout the world in both nearshore waters and deep waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf. Fin whales favour cool, temperate waters in the summer, and are believed to winter in warmer, tropical waters, although some individuals are known to remain at high latitudes during the winter months.


Interesting Facts

One of the best ways to identify a Fin whale is by the white patch on the right side of its lower jaw – no other of the large streamlined baleen whales has this asymmetrical head pigmentation.

  • Lifespan: 85-90 years
  • Size: Up to 27m in length
  • Food: Fin whales are capable of feeding at the surface and at depth, hunting a variety of pelagic, schooling fish species such as spawning herring, capelin and sand eels, as well as zooplankton. Their diet can vary seasonally and locally.
© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

© Dylan Walker at Planet Whale

Feeding & Hunting

Lunge feeding is very common at the surface and also known to feed at depth. The Fin whale often feeds on its right side with its left fluke visible above the surface, and often in association with dolphins and birds.


Small “aboriginal subsistence” hunts still take place off Greenland. By-catch and entanglement in discarded fishing gear are also threats.

Conservation Status & International Protection

IUCN categorise the Fin whale as “endangered” – their numbers were severely depleted by modern whaling in the 20th century.

Best places in the world to see these creatures:

Bay of Biscay, Iceland, Mexico and many more which can be found at Click on the link for ethical reviews and rating system for whale watching trips to see Fin Whales

Organisation Profile:  Planet Whale

Orca7Description/Background of work

At the heart of Planet Whale is a belief that an encounter with a wild whale or dolphin reconnects us with the natural world in an amazing and powerful way. For one humbling moment we can be moved to tears or celebrating wildly as we stare through the thin veil of water that separates us from these magnificent animals.

Planet Whale understands that we all need such encounters to reawaken our sense of responsibility to the natural world; energising ourselves to act for the greater good. That is our first step – only when we have been inspired will we feel compelled to act. For this reason we promote responsible whale watching and have the largest online searchable database of whale and dolphin watch operators in the world – the public can review trips they’ve been on with regard to their sustainability, educational value and impact on the marine environment, amongst other things.

It is this global community that will change the way we view whales and dolphins forever. By harnessing the passion and ideas of individuals, we will achieve more to protect and defend our oceans than ever before.

Together we will: 

  • Give the people control so they can use it to help whales and dolphins.
  • Inspire change through a new global partnership.
  • Make whale watching more sustainable – and successful – than ever before!
  • Reach out to the world with colossal festivals for whales and dolphins.
  • Create innovative campaigns that harness the power of the web’s global community.


Volunteer/Paid Work Opportunities

We are always looking for passionate and hard-working volunteers to help achieve our Planet Whale mission. In particular we welcome applications for the upcoming Whalefest. You don’t need to be a whale expert but a lot of enthusiasm for marine conservation and a fun attitude are essential. We’re based in Brighton and Hove (UK) but our volunteer network stretches across the globe, so feel free to get in touch wherever you are! Contact us at


Return to Baleen Whales or learn more about Sei Whale