The Queen of the Pelagos Sanctuary, the Fin Whale

Sea & Land, The Sea

With a maximum length of 24 metres, the fin whale is one of the largest existing animals, second only to the blue whale.

The fin whale is the only whale species regularly present in the Mediterranean and the entire Corsican-Ligurian-Provencal basin is its “favourite restaurant”, that is what is called the “food district”. They feed almost exclusively on Mediterranean krill consisting of small shrimp which is widespread in the western Liguria sea during spring and summer. Genetic studies have proved that this is a distinct population from the Atlantic one.

Where it lives: Mainly in pelagic areas, far from the coasts and in deep waters (from 400 to 2500 metres), even though it may be spotted in shallower areas.

How many are there: There are no current estimates of the number of fin whales throughout the entire Mediterranean. A census carried out in the Pelagos Sanctuary at the beginning of the 90s estimated the presence of 901 individuals, whilst the most recent aerial census indicated a much lower number.

Scientific name: Balaenoptera physalus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Suborder: Misticeti

Family: Balaenopteridae

English name: Fin whale

Length: Up to 24 metres

Weight: From 45 to 75 tonnes

Distinguishing features: Slate grey back, white lower pectoral and tail fins; flat-wedged head towards the back, dorsal fin located at the beginning of the posterior back third; powerful tail, almost a quarter of the total length. They blow vertically and very high.

Spotting possibility: High

Habits: Fast swimmers, they alternate swimming on the surface with immersions which last up to 15 minutes. They live alone or in small groups of 6 at the most. They migrate and concentrate in the most productive areas of the Mediterranean during the summer.

Diet: It mainly consists of small crustaceans (krill) and small fish.

[Sabina Airoldi]