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Fin whale


Males up to 21 meters; females up to 23 meters; at birth: 6.5 meter


up to 40,000 kilograms; at birth: 3600 kilograms




possibly up to 100 years


krill, school-forming fish and squid






mature: between 6-12 years
pregnancy: 11-12 months
number: 1 calf every 2 to 5 years

  • Dut: Gewone vinvis
  • Lat: Balaenoptera physalus
  • Eng: Fin whale
  • Ger: Finnwal
  • Dan: Finhval
  • Nor: Finnhval
Fin whale, Frits-Jan Maas

Fin whale

Fin whales are the second largest animal in the world, only the blue whale is larger. Fin whales are capable of raising their entire body out of the water and falling back in, making a huge splash. They are long slender whales with a tapered head. Because they are so streamlined, they are very fast swimmers, traveling up to 45 kilometers per hour. When hunting, they swim on their right side so that their left side faces upward. That way, the lighter color on the right side of the head is less obvious to the prey they are hunting.

  • Reports of live fin whales in the North Sea
    Fin whale, Marijke de Boer

    On 21 September 1979, spouting clouds from three large baleen whales were observed close by Scheveningen, and a 'larger rorqual' was spotted on 30 May 1987 by the Dogger's Bank. In both of these cases, they were probably fin whales. The first definite report of live fin whales in the North Sea dates back to 1995, when two specimen were identified, with certainty, swimming off of the Scottish east coast. In 1998, a number of fin whale were seen again in various places, including off the coast of IJmuiden.

    In 2011, a fin whale was hit by the bow of a container ship. The dead animal was only discovered after entering the harbor of Rotterdam, so it is unclear where exactly the collision took place. It could have happened in the Bay of Biscay, the English Channel or in the North Sea.

  • Distribution and habitat

    Fin whales are found throughout the world, however not commonly in shallow seas like the southern North Sea. The closest group of fin whales lives in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Fin whales live alone or in small groups of no more than 10 specimen. They migrate in the summer to the polar region and in the winter to the equator. Some of them travel up to 20,000 kilometers during migration. There are very few reports of fin whales in the North Sea. Every once in awhile, one has stranded on a Dutch or Belgium beach.

  • Strandings on the Dutch coast
    DatePlace and details
    August 1531 Zandvoort
    7 October 1682 Tholen
    9 December 1765 Texel
    18 November 1791 between Wijk aan Zee and Zantvoort
    5 April 1826 Wijk aan Zee
    17 September 1835 Wijk aan Zee
    9 December 1841 Katwijk aan Zee
    22/23 November 1851 Vlieland
    17 December 1856 Texel
    March 1866 Noordzee, drijvend
    13 May 1869 Borssele
    5 October 1895 Callantsoog
    1 December 1899 Loosduinen
    16 November 1904 Huisduinen
    10 May 1910 Burghsluis
    11 November 1914 Wissekerke
    13 November 1914 Katwijk aan Zee
    15 November 1914 Hoek van Holland
    28 November 1914 Bergen aan Zee
    1/2 March 1915 Castricum
    1 July 1916 Wijk aan Zee
    18 September 1944 Brouwershavense gat
    14 November 1956 Wijk aan Zee
    August 1998 1 dead male, Huisduinen, brought on shore at Den Helder
    14 January 2001 Sloehaven
    26 August 2004 Noordwijk
    14 November 2006 sex unknown, Kwade Hoek
    30 August 2011 male, 13 meters long, 14,000 kilo, harbor of Rotterdam on the bow of a container ship
    Source: various sources including Chris Smeenk and Naturalis
  • Seal virus dangerous for fin whales?

    A stranded fin whale found on the Belgium coast was contaminated with the morbilli virus. This virus killed many seals in the Wadden Sea and North Sea in the 1980s. This virus had never before been found in a whale.