Cetacean Society International

Working for whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide

CSI Photo Gallery

Harbour Porpoise

(Phocoena phocoena)

The harbour porpoise is the world's smallest cold-water cetacean, which grows only to a length 4-5 feet and weighs less than 100 pounds at maturity! They only live in the Northern Hemisphere, in cold - temperate coastal waters. If you live in North America, Greenland, Northern Europe, the Russian Federation or Japan then you may have harbour porpoise living near you.

Because of their small size and coastal distribution harbour porpoise are particularly sensitive to human activities. Some threats include chemical and noise pollution, habitat degradation and incidental mortality in fisheries. Many populations are now listed as threatened with extinction.
(Photo courtesy James Rogers)


Harbour porpoise can be difficult to find in the wild, because their dorsal fin is very small (6-8 inches) and they are remarkably shy. Sometimes we are only alerted to a potential problem when they come ashore dead. As scientists we examine the body tissues and stomach contents to learn about their diet, age and diseases. Cetacean Society International helps fund this type of work in southern British Columbia.

If you ever find a harbour porpoise on a beach you can help scientists by reporting it to your local university, aquarium or government agency. Harbour porpoise need everyone's help, as it is easy to overlook such small creatures in the big ocean.
(Photo courtesy Anna Hall)