Species Profile

Fin Whale Pacific population

Scientific Name: Balaenoptera physalus
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: Pacific Ocean
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2019
COSEWIC Status: Special Concern
COSEWIC Status Criteria: Met criterion for Threatened, A1d, but designated Special Concern due to strong increases in abundance in neighbouring US waters and likelihood of immigration from these adjacent areas.
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: The abundance of this large whale appears to be recovering from depletion due to industrial whaling, which ended in the mid-1970s. Current abundance estimates are less than 1000 mature individuals, but these do not include Canadian waters beyond the continental shelf where substantial numbers were sighted in a 2018 survey. Additionally, populations in neighbouring US waters are increasing and could augment the Canadian population. Individuals continue to be at risk mainly from vessel strikes and underwater noise from shipping.
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 Pacific population was designated Threatened in May 2005. Status re-examined and designated Special Concern in May 2019.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
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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Related Species

Species COSEWIC
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SARA
Status
Fin Whale Non-active Special Concern

Quick Links: | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

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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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for Blue, Fin, and Sei Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, and B. borealis) in Pacific Canadian Waters
Status Final posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whale Action Plan Technical Team

  • Jonathan Thar - Chair/Contact - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    Phone: 604-666-3811  Fax: 604-666-3341  Send Email

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Internationally, Sei and Fin Whales are listed as ’protected’ by the International Whaling Commission and as ‘endangered’ by the IUCN (World Conservation Union). A multi-species recovery strategy that includes the Pacific Sei and Fin Whales has been developed. Its goal is to attain long-term viable populations of the Sei and Fin Whales in Pacific Canadian waters through critical habitat identification, determining species abundance and distribution, and threat mitigation. The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre along with the Cetus Research and Conservation Society are working to conserve the marine environment by promoting community stewardship and research and by fostering activities that directly assist in the recovery of whales, including Sei and Fin Whales. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Fisheries & Oceans Canada’s Cetacean Research Program and participants conduct annual surveys to estimate the number of Fin Whales and determine the presence of Sei Whales in Pacific Canadian waters. Whenever possible, individual whales sighted during these surveys are photographed for identification and comparison with catalogues of whales sighted in U.S. waters. Acoustic monitoring using submersible passive acoustic recording devices also is being undertaken. Opportunistic sightings of dolphins, porpoises, and whales have been collected by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre’s BC Cetacean Sightings Network since 1972 which help to determine distribution as well as relative abundance of many species, including Sei and Fin Whales. The Cetus Research and Conservation Society also are working with a network of volunteers to solicit, collect, verify, and record whale sightings. Summary of Recovery Activities The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre compared traffic patterns of the shipping industry with areas of high densities of Fin Whale sightings to determine areas at high risk of ship strikes. The BC Cetacean Sightings Network is supported by activities promoting community stewardship, including: interactive webpage, online blogs and news page, youth-oriented publications, posters, and maintaining relationships with observers who contribute to sighting records. Fisheries & Oceans Canada have a Marine Mammal Incident Response Program to respond to incidents involving marine mammals, including Sei and Fin Whales. Incidents may include violations of the Fisheries Act and/or the Species at Risk Act; live strandings; dead, sick or injured animals; or entanglements. All incidents involving Sei and Fin Whales in Pacific Canadian waters are compiled by the program and will be used to better identify threats and develop specific mitigation strategies. Fisheries & Oceans Canada is developing predictions of Sei and Fin Whale habitat to focus survey effort and identify ‘potential’ habitat, an important component to the identification of critical habitat. The Cetus Research and Conservation Society work to reduce overall impacts on marine animals through ’Straitwatch’. Providing education to northern Vancouver Island residents and visitors, Straitwatch increases awareness of conservation issues and local marine species at risk like the Sei and Fin Whale. A stewardship vessel patrols areas of concern providing marine mammal guidelines and species at risk information to boaters while monitoring activities that may be potentially harmful to vulnerable species. The Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area ocean planning initiative will incorporate mitigation strategies to address threats to species at risk and to protect critical habitat(s) on the North Coast of British Columbia, focusing on the Queen Charlotte Basin (Queen Charlotte Sound to Hecate Strait). The marine area extends to the bottom of the shelf slope and therefore includes a significant portion of on-shelf habitat for Sei and Fin Whales in Pacific Canadian waters.

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.

49 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

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, Pacific population (2020) (2020-01-07)

    COVID-19 and the consultations on the listing of species at risk As a result of the COVID 19 situation, it may not be possible to have in-person meetings. We will work to ensure that all the known, potentially affected parties have the opportunity to contribute to the consultations and that the consultation process is flexible and sensitive to the current context. The abundance of this large whale appears to be recovering from depletion due to industrial whaling, which ended in the mid-1970s. Current abundance estimates are less than 1000 mature individuals, but these do not include Canadian waters beyond the continental shelf where substantial numbers were sighted in a 2018 survey. Additionally, populations in neighbouring US waters are increasing and could augment the Canadian population. Individuals continue to be at risk mainly from vessel strikes and underwater noise from shipping.
  • Response Statements - Fin Whale (2005-11-15)

    Currently sighted only infrequently on former whaling grounds off British Columbia. Coastal whaling took at least 7,600 animals from the population between 1905 and 1967, and thousands of additional animals were taken by pelagic whalers through the 1970s. Catch rates from coastal whaling stations declined precipitously off British Columbia in the 1960s. Based on the severe depletion and lack of sufficient time for recovery, it is inferred that present population is below 50% of its level, 60-90 years ago. Individuals continue to be at risk from ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for Blue, Fin, and Sei Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, and B. borealis) in Pacific Canadian Waters (2006-07-14)

    This Recovery Strategy provides the scientific basis to recover the populations of blue, fin and sei whales that occur in Pacific Canadian waters off the coast of British Columbia. Knowledge about these whales is poor in Pacific Canadian waters. Therefore the collection of basic data on abundance and distribution, critical habitat, and threats is the first priority for their recovery. As information is gathered, the Recovery Strategy may be amended to incorporate new findings (a copy of the amendment must be included in the public registry).

Action Plans

  • Action Plan for Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, B. borealis, and Eubalaena japonica) in Canadian Pacific Waters (2017-03-09)

    This action plan addresses the entire set of populations of Blue, Fin, Sei and North Pacific Right Whales (Balaenoptera musculus, B. physalus, B. borealis, and Eubalaena japonica) in Canadian Pacific waters. It identifies recovery measures to implement the broad goals and objectives outlined in the Recovery Strategy for Blue, Fin and Sei Whales in Pacific Canadian Waters (Gregr et al. 2006), and the Recovery Strategy for North Pacific Right Whales (DFO 2011). All four species are being considered together because of their similar geographic distribution, common threats to survival, and the efficiency of integrating activities and resources required for recovery.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site (2016-07-04)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site meets the requirements for an action plan set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA (s.47)) for species requiring an action plan that occur inside the boundary of the site. This action plan will be updated to more comprehensively include measures to conserve and recover the marine species at risk once the first integrated Land, Sea, People management plan for Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site (hereafter called Gwaii Haanas) is complete. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in Gwaii Haanas.

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(#14-PPAC-00029 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2014-06-19)

    The objective of this research is to estimate the abundance of the travel patterns, forage species and habitat use by cetaceans in and around Caamano Sound to Douglas Channel. Additionally, abundance data can support the possible identification of habitat that is critical to survival and recovery of the species. A previously established hydrophone network will be used to record whale calls and evaluate presence and activity. This work will also contribute to public education and awareness of the whales that inhabit the territory.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#14-PPAC-00031 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2014-06-19)

    This study will use photo, video and acoustic identification of individuals, wounds, incidents and behaviour to document seasonal prey preference, feeding techniques, abundance and distribution, and rates and responses to anthropogenic threats. Prey and fecal samples will be collected for health and diet assessment, and mobile and fixed hydrophones will collect acoustic samples.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#16-PPAC-00005 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2016-02-11)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#18-PPAC-00022 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-04-19)

    The purpose of this research is to understand population trends, threats and foraging ecology of common cetaceans in BC including threatened Northern Resident and Transient killer whale populations, and fin whales.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#18-PPAC-00027 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2018-06-26)

    The California Current Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey is a scientific study designed to assess the status of marine mammal stocks and monitor the ecosystem they inhabit. Data on cetacean distribution, school size, and school composition are collected to determine abundance. Cetacean skin biopsies will be used to investigate stock structure and phylogenic relationships. Photographs will document geographic and individual variation. Oceanographic data will characterize cetaceans' habitat and it's variation over time.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#19-PPAC-00034 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2019-07-07)

    The study aims at determining sound propagation (detectability over distance) for Killer Whale calls within their habitat including natural and anthropogenic noise conditions. The activities permitted under this license shall assess Killer Whale vocalization ranges, which vary by location, habitat and times of the year. The study aims at better understanding the impact of noise on vocalization ranges and to determine optimal locations for passive killer whale acoustic monitoring stations. Simulated sounds including calls of Killer Whales shall be projected underwater from a stationary source and recorded via hydrophones at various distances and different angles from the source via a mobile platform (small vessel). This information will also be used to determine the optimal locations for passive acoustic monitoring and tracking of whales. The activities permitted under this license include the following: 1. Simulated sounds including calls of Killer Whales may be projected underwater from a stationery source (anchored vessel) via an underwater sound projector suspended at a fixed depth of either 10 or 25 m and recorded via two or more hydrophones at various distances and different angles. 2. Sound projection shall not be conducted when cetaceans are present within 5km of the recording and sound projection vessel. 3. The area is to be monitored visually and acoustically for cetaceans for 30 minutes prior to acoustic trials to ensure that no cetaceans are present within 5 km. If cetaceans are present within 5 km, acoustic trials must be delayed or stopped and monitoring for an additional 30 minutes shall continue before acoustic trials can be reinitiated.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#20-PPAC-00017 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2020-06-01)

    A comparison of the relative impacts of nutrition and toxicant exposure on reproduction of the Southern Resident killer whales, Bigg's Transient killer whales and baleen whales using non-invasive measures of analyzing hormone metabolites and toxicants from fecal sample collection.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 104 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2009-07-14)

    The Licensee is authorized to collect fecal samples from killer whales for assessment of stress hormone levels in response to increased anthropogenic threats. These efforts are undertaken in collaboration with the University of Washington and their research into a larger fecal thyroid hormone assessment of Southern Resident Killer Whales. The secondary objective is to collect photographs of marine mammals on an opportunistic basis in Inside Passage waters. This study will continue ongoing photo identification efforts in collaboration with DFO researchers and others in the Pacific region.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 106), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2010-01-01)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 107), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2010-02-09)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 111 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2010-06-15)

    The Licensee is authorized to collect fecal samples from killer whales for assessment of stress hormone levels in response to increased anthropogenic threats. These efforts are undertaken in collaboration with the University of Washington and their research into a larger fecal thyroid hormone assessment of Southern Resident Killer Whales.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 151 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2010-01-01)

    Authorized representatives from DFO and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to disentangle pinnipeds, cetaceans or sea turtles from fishing gear and other debris of human origin.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 152 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2011-05-30)

    The objective of this research is to estimate the abundance of the travel patterns, forage species and habitat use by cetaceans in and around Caamano Sound to Douglas Channel. Additionally, abundance data can support the possible identification of habitat that is critical to survival and recovery of the species. This work will also contribute to public education and awareness of the whales that inhabit the territory.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 153 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2012-08-02)

    Authorized representatives of the Fisheries Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries, are licensed to collect photographic identification, video tape and line transect sighting surveys to aid in the research and recovery of these species at risk by determining abundance estimates.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 154 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2012-05-01)

    Authorized representatives of the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect photographic identification, biopsy, prey and fecal samples to aid in the research and recovery of these species at risk by determining winter distribution and diet. Prey availability and contaminants are two main anthropogenic threats to these species. Biopsy sampling will provide information on contaminant load and potential emerging contaminants, diet through fatty acid analysis and paternity through genetic sampling.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 157 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2012-07-01)

    This study will focus its efforts on Pacific white-sided dolphins, however, photographs, and fecal and prey samples of other marine mammal species will be opportunistically collected and shared with DFO colleagues and other marine mammal researchers.
  • Explanation for issuing licence(#DFO-PAF SARA 159 ), persuant to the provisions of section 74 of SARA (2013-01-22)

    Authorized representatives from DFO, the Animal Health Center and the Vancouver Aquarium are licensed to collect for diagnostic purposes: all tissues, organ fluids and/or blood of dead salvaged parts or surplus material collected from dead marine mammals and turtles.
  • >> See more Permits and Related Agreements documents

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.

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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