Species Profile

Fin Whale Atlantic population

Scientific Name: Balaenoptera physalus
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Atlantic Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2019
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria:
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: Abundance of this species in the Canadian Atlantic was reduced by whaling during much of the 20th century. Although whaling in Canadian waters ended in 1972, it continues in Greenland and Iceland waters. Uncorrected abundance estimates from two large-scale surveys over Canadian continental shelf waters in 2007 and 2016 suggest slightly more than 1,500 mature individuals. Declining abundance has been documented in certain local areas, for example, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, although there is no evidence that this applies to the overall Canadian population. This species faces a number of current threats including vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, noise and general habitat degradation.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The species was considered a single unit and designated Special Concern in April 1987. Split into two populations (Atlantic and Pacific) in May 2005. The Atlantic population was designated Special Concern in May 2005. Status re-examined and confirmed in May 2019.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2006-08-15

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Fin Whale Non-active Special Concern

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Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

19 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus), Atlantic population and Pacific population, in Canada (2019-12-09)

    The Fin Whale is a large-sized baleen cetacean (adult length 25 m) in the family Balaenopteridae. Like most members of this family, Fin Whales are characterized by a hydrodynamically-streamlined body shape and fast swimming speeds. It is second in size only to the Blue Whale (B. musculus). With the exception of the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), members of the family Balaenopteridae are similar in general appearance and some species can be difficult to distinguish at sea. The most distinctive feature of Fin Whales is the unusual asymmetrical pigmentation on the lower jaw, dark on the left and light on the right. This asymmetry continues through a portion of the baleen plates. Note: This COSEWIC assessment was received by the Minister on October 15th, 2018.
  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the fin whale Balaenoptera physalus in Canada (2005-08-12)

    Southern and northern hemisphere fin whales are considered subspecies based on slight morphological differences and suspected reproductive isolation: B. p. physalus in the northern hemisphere and B. p. quoyi in the southern hemisphere. Common English names include finback and finner. French common names include rorqual commun, baleine à nageoires and baleinoptère commune.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Fin Whale, Atlantic population (2020) (2020-01-07)

    Abundance of this species in the Canadian Atlantic was reduced by whaling during much of the 20th century. Although whaling in Canadian waters ended in 1972, it continues in Greenland and Iceland waters. Uncorrected abundance estimates from two large-scale surveys over Canadian continental shelf waters in 2007 and 2016 suggest slightly more than 1,500 mature individuals. Declining abundance has been documented in certain local areas, for example, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, although there is no evidence that this applies to the overall Canadian population. This species faces a number of current threats including vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear, noise and general habitat degradation.
  • Response Statements - Fin Whale (2005-11-15)

    The size of this population was reduced by whaling during much of the 20th Century. However, sightings remain relatively common off Atlantic Canada and they have not been hunted since 1971. The current abundance and level of depletion compared with pre-whaling numbers are uncertain. The whales face a number of current threats including ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear, but none is believed to seriously threaten the population.

Action Plans

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus), Atlantic Population in Canada (2017-01-25)

    The Atlantic population of fin whales was reduced by whaling during much of the 20th century. Since 1971, however, the species has not been hunted in Canada and sightings remain relatively common off the Atlantic coast and in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence. The species was designated “special concern” in May 2005 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and was officially added to Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act in July 2006 because it was considered likely to become threatened or endangered due to a combination of threats and biological characteristics.

Orders

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005-08-12)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Permits and Related Agreements

  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-18-PNCR-00001), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-06-18)

    The activities involve disentangling whales (including North Atlantic Right Whales, Blue Whale, Northern Bottlenose Whale, Beluga Whale, Fin Whale) , Sea Turtles (including Leatherback Sea Turtles and Loggerhead Sea Turtles), Dolphins and Porpoises from fishing gear and lines. The rescue activities include repeated close approaches at sea in small vessels, physically interacting with an individual for the purpose of securing, detangling, re-floating, freeing the individuals from gears, including fishing weirs, using standard protocols. In addition, activities involving dead animals include collection of biological information and the transfer of the animals to a location where necropsies can be conducted. There will be no tissue sample collection from live animals or tagging of live animals.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#QUE-LEP-002C-2019 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-07-15)

    MICS conducts analysis on population dynamics, distribution and habitat use (e.g. identifying important habitat) and is also monitoring changes of these parameters over time. Further work includes the study of reproduction, genetic relatedness within and between populations, as well as toxicological assessments of these species. MICS also conducts social and behavioural studies on these species. The activities authorized by this licence consist of: 1. Making close and repeated approaches to Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Minke Whales, North Atlantic Right Whales and Sperm Whales with a vehicle within a distance of less than 100 metres. 2. Taking photography of marine mammals. 3. Collecting biopsy samples using a crossbow and biopsy darts of Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Minke Whales, and North Atlantic Right Whales, accordingly to the protocol approved by the Animal Welfare and Ethics Committee. 4. Tagging or marking and attaching suction cup on individuals of Blue Whales, Fin Whales, Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Minke Whales, and North Atlantic Right Whales. 5. Using a UAV to obtain aerial pictures to identify individuals through photo-identification.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#QUE-LEP-003B-2020 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2020-06-23)

    The Marine Mammal Research and Education Group (GREMM), as part of the interventions carried out on behalf of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (QMERN), may be called upon to participate in sampling operations for marine mammals and marine turtles in distress or dead. The GREMM is authorized to undertake the following activities: 1. Make repeated approaches to cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales within a distance of less than 100 m; 2. Document and photograph cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales; 3. Fly over cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales using a UAV to obtain aerial images to document the behaviour of individuals; 4. Tag cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, Blue whales and fin whales; 5. Take (at the express request of veterinarians associated with the RQUMM and for diagnostic purposes) biopsies of cetaceans including belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales using a 22-gauge PaxArm rifle armed with a dart equipped with a sterile stainless steel dart, in accordance with the protocol approved by the Institutional Animal Protection Committee; 6. Collect biological samples from marine mammal and turtle carcasses; 7. Transport biological samples from marine mammals and turtles within Canada. 8. Perform first aid and blast sampling on live stranded cetaceans; 9. Interact with or move a marine mammal, including whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals for the purpose of assisting the marine mammal in situations of entanglement, stranding or entrapment, or injury or for the purpose of a necropsy or health assessment; 10. Release live stranded small cetaceans back into the water; 11. Capture and relocate pinnipeds that are detrimental to public safety.
  • Explanation for issuing other simliar documents(#QUE-LEP-003-2019 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-06-18)

    The GREMM is pursuing long-term monitoring aimed at elucidating the relationships between the beluga's social structure, behaviour, ecological preferences and physical condition in order to identify its critical habitat and the threats to its recovery. It is based on the pursuit of systematic censuses by photo-identification, the study of social and acoustic behaviour by monitoring herds of diverse size and composition, and the evaluation of condition indices of "known" individuals through biopsy sampling and photogrammetry. As a secondary activity, an opportunistic collection of photo-identifications of North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales will be carried out. The licence holder is authorized to undertake the following activities: 1. Make repeated approaches to belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales on board a vessel. 2. Document and photograph belugas, North Atlantic right whales, blue whales and fin whales. 3. Fly over belugas using a drone to obtain aerial images to document the behaviour of individuals. 4. Document the sound environment and vocal behaviour of beluga whales using a hydrophone. 5. Conduct follow-ups of beluga whale groups of varying size and composition to ensure an equitable representation of all group types (depending on the sectors, herds and group types previously sampled). 6. Take biopsies from belugas using a 22-calibre PaxArm rifle armed with a dart equipped with a sterile stainless steel dart, in accordance with the protocol approved by the Institutional Animal Welfare Committee.
  • Explanation for issuing other simliar documents(#QUE-LEP-005B-2019 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-08-06)

    Conduct research to better understand and address the cumulative effects of shipping noise on North Atlantic right whales (NARW), northern bottlenose whales and other cetaceans in the waters of Eastern Canada. This includes work to better establish baselines for noise in eastern Canada (as well as the health and wellbeing of the animals), examine potential overlap with NARW occurrence, and increase understanding of noise impacts on NARW. The licence holder is authorized to do the following activities: 1. Making close and repeated approaches to species herein mentioned with a vehicle within a distance of less than 100 metres. 2. Taking photography of marine mammals. 3. Collecting biopsy samples using a crossbow and biopsy darts of species herein mentioned. 4. Collecting faecal samples. 5. Tagging or marking and attaching suction cup on species herein mentioned. 6. Using a drone to obtain aerial pictures to identify individuals through photo-identification and to collect blow samples.
  • Explanation for issuing other simliar documents(#QUE-LEP-006-2020 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2020-06-23)

    The Quebec Centre for Wildlife Health (CQSAS), as part of the interventions carried out on behalf of the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Response Network (QMERN), may be called upon to participate in sampling operations for marine mammals and marine turtles in distress or dead. The CQSAS is authorized to undertake the following activities: 1. Take biological samples from carcasses of marine mammals and turtles listed as extirpated, endangered or threatened under SARA; 2. Transport biological samples of marine mammals and turtles within Canadian borders; 3. Perform first aid and blast sampling on live stranded cetaceans; 4. Release live stranded small cetaceans into the water; 5. Capture and relocation of pinnipeds that are detrimental to public security. 6. Necropsize marine mammal carcasses within the territorial limits of the Province of Québec. 7. Transporting and towing marine mammal carcasses within the territorial limits of the Province of Quebec; 8. Euthanize marine mammals not listed in Schedule I of the Species at Risk Act whose state of health indicates that the animal is doomed to certain and imminent death or whose behaviour represents a danger or threatens public safety.
  • Explanation for issuing other simliar documents(#QUE-LEP-012B-2020 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2020-09-11)

    Describe the habitat use and feeding strategies of blue and fin whales during the summer and fall, monitor their seasonal migrations, and identify their wintering grounds. To do so, transmitters will be placed in the dorsal fin of the animals. A field campaign is also planned to sample blue whale skin and blubber by biopsy. The skin will be used to determine the sex and diet of the individuals while the blubber will be used to determine their reproductive status. The permit holder is authorized to undertake the following activities: 1. Make repeated approaches to blue whales and fin whales on board the vessels identified in item 1. 2. To document and photograph blue and fin whales. 3. Attach satellite transmitters to blue and fin whales using an airgun. 4. Take biopsies from blue whales in accordance with the protocol (16-01c) approved by the Institutional Animal Welfare Committee.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005-11-16)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.
  • Species at Risk Act - Legal Listing Consultation Workbook, Fin whale (Atlantic Population) (2005-11-15)

    Your opinion is being sought to assist the government of Canada in making an informed decision on whether to add the fin whale to the Schedule 1 (the List of Wildlife Species at Risk) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Your input on the impacts of adding this species to the List is important. This workbook has been developed to give you an opportunity to provide Fisheries and Oceans Canada with your feedback, advice, and other comments regarding adding this species to Schedule 1 of SARA (Schedule 1 identifies which species are legally protected under SARA).

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Recovery Document Posting Plan - Fisheries and Oceans Canada - Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (2018-09-28)

    Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the competent Minister(s) must prepare a recovery strategy within one year of listing a species on Schedule 1 of SARA as endangered and within two years of listing a species as extirpated or threatened. A management plan must be prepared within three years for a species listed as special concern. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is accountable for 111 of the 518 species listed under SARA. As of February 2016, proposed recovery strategies, management plans and action plans for 57 of those species have not yet been posted to the Species at Risk Public Registry. An additional 23 aquatic species have proposed management or action plans coming due in the future. The following outlines the Department’s plan for posting proposed documents for 64 species on the Species at Risk Public Registry. The Department has a plan to post recovery strategies for 9 species, management plans for 13 species, and action plans for 42 species over the next year. Original publication of the Recovery Document Posting Plan: 2016-05-02
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