The Finback Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the world’s second biggest living animal. Finbacks can grow to nearly 70 feet in length and a weight of 70 tons. Despite that massive size, they are streamlined and muscular allowing them to travel at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, earning it the nickname, “the greyhound of the sea”. It can hold its breath for 50 minutes. The whale’s territory stretches across all of the world’s oceans. The Finback Whale is listed as an endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The Finback Whale, a dark blue/gray bodied whale with a yellow/white underbelly, has been protected since the late 1970’s when it was realized that its population in the Southern hemisphere was only an estimated 38,000 down from an estimated 300,000. Whaling techniques and technology were able to negate the Finback’s remarkable speed, claiming almost 750,000 fin whales in the 20th century. The population in the North Atlantic, 30,000 to 50,000 in the 19th Century, was down to 7,200 adults by 1997. The fin’s current population is unknown in most areas outside the North Atlantic but is estimated to be between 50,000 and 90,000 individuals.
The International Whaling Commission has issued a moratorium on the hunting of finback whales. Japan and Iceland have claimed research exemptions to the Whaling Commission’s order and have collectively killed nearly 150 Finback Whales in the last two years.
In addition to whaling, entanglement in fishing gear, noise pollution that interferes with their ability to communicate, ship collisions, and offshore oil development remain a threat to the finback recovery.