Fin whale

Latin: Balaenoptera physalus

IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable

Physical description

It is easy to underestimate just how huge a fin whale is. They are second largest animal on the planet, averaging 20 metres (65ft) in length, but can grow to 26 metres (85ft). It is a long, streamlined animal with a sharp pointed rostrum and a small swept back dorsal fin located ¾ of the way along the back. Colour is light grey or brownish with white underside. 

Manx distribution

There have only ever been a handful of recorded sightings of fin whale in Manx waters and there are no photo records. In October 2016, MWDW watched two fin whales from Marine Drive and despite being four miles offshore, the tall blow could be seen from land. 

Worldwide distribution

Fin whales are found in temperate and tropical waters around the globe but not in the polar regions. 

Fin whale in Canada, by Bryony Manley (MWDW)

Fin whales are slow and purposeful with their travel. The long stretch of body eventually gives way to the small dorsal fin located far along the back. The most distinctive feature is the tall ‘blow’ produced each time they come up for air. This blow is columnar in shape and can be 2m (6ft) in height. Unlike the humpback whale, the fluke is not usually seen when diving.  


Fin whales posses baleen plates instead of teeth, which they use to filter huge quantities of small shoaling fish. In Manx waters this is most likely to be herring.

Fin whale in Canada, by Bryony Manley (MWDW)

Report a Sighting

Have you seen a fin whale in Manx waters? Report your sighting to us.