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Fin Whale - Balaenoptera physalus
Photo by Peter Pyle

The fin whale is recognized as the fastest large baleen whale, and is second only to the blue whale in size. This species uses its speed to corral large schools of small fish into compact balls, and then take a gulp and strain out the fish with hair-like baleen plates. The sleek body of the fin whale is a brownish-black to gray color. A small dorsal fin is located relatively far back and close to the fluke with a distinct ridge from fin to fluke. The blow is a tall narrow column of spray.

Fin Whale
(Balaenoptera physalus)

Located throughout the world’s oceans, especially in the northeastern pacific portion of North America; less common in tropical seas

Fin Whales tend to stay in deep water, however they have been seen along coastal areas with depth no less than 30 meters (90 ft).

Fish, krill, crustaceans, and squid


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
As a result of their great speed, until the invention of steam power and explosive harpoons, fin whales were considered to fast for whalers to catch.

Learn More
- Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology