Harbour Porpoise

Jumping out of the water.

Jumping out of the water.

Side view under water

Side view under water

Front view underwater

Front view underwater

Diagonal view of dorsal fin

Diagonal view of dorsal fin

Side view of dorsal fin

Side view of dorsal fin

distribution map

distribution map

 

Taxonomy

Scientific name: Phocoena phocoena. 
Order: Artiodactyla.
Family: Phocoenidae.  
Genus: Phocoena.

 

IUCN Status

Least concerned.

 

Other names

Puffing pig.
Common porpoise.

 

Appearance

The Harbour Porpoise is one of the smallest cetaceans, as they grow to no more than 1.9 meters.

Small and stocky, they are dark grey and have a pale underbelly with a thin dark line. Harbour porpoises have a small dorsal fin that has a broad based giving a triangular appearances. 

Like dolphins, harbour porpoises have no beaks. 

 

Habitat and distribution

It is estimated that the worldwide population of harbour porpoises is 700,000. They are often sighted in shallow bays, estuaries and tidal channels less than 200 meters in depth.

 

Behaviour

Harbour porpoises are normally seen in pods of 2 to 10, but have occasionally been seen in larger groups.

Whenever they surface, they only reveal smart part of their back, and small sight of their dorsal fin.


Harbour porpoises are very shy, and tend to avoid boats and ships. 

 

Confusion with other species

Due to its small size and broad-based dorsal fin, it is unlikely to get confused with any other species unless it is from a distance or in bad weather.

 

Threats

Due to its preference of habitats in shallow bays, harbour porpoises are under threats from factors such as chemical pollution, vessel strike and noise pollution. Harbour porpoises have often been found entangled in lost or discarded fishing nets.

 

Other threats 

Pollution – pollution has caused them to become ill and can prevent them from having offspring. 
Noise pollution: they rely on noises to communicate and navigate loud noise can impact and prevent them from being able to do this.  
Ghost fishing: (fishing gear dropped or left in the ocean, not being used), they get tangled up in it.  
Their predators are white sharks, killer whales, and sometimes bottlenose dolphins.

 

Interesting facts

Harbour porpoises are sometimes called "puffing pigs,” due to the sound they make as they breathe.

 

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