Today we were thrilled to be able to observe two Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) as they transited the Teno-Rasca Marine Protected Area several times. Fin whales are the second largest whale species on the planet, the largest being the Blue whale. Encountering these Fin whales brings our list of cetacean species encountered to a total of 13 different species of whales and dolphins seen on our Tenerife whale watching tours during our first year.
Fin whales grow up to 27 meters long and can weight as much as 120 tonnes. They are known as the ‘greyhounds of the sea’ for their speed – having been observed transiting at speeds of up to 37km/h with short bursts of speed up to 47km/h! The oldest Fin whale was recorded in Antartica at 111 years old.
They are a slender bodied rorcual, the dorsal side being dark grey with lighter coloured chevrons and a white belly. The dorsal fin is small and falcate with slightly concave trailing edges to its tail flukes. There is a single medial ridge on the rostrum and unique to the Fin whale the right side of the lower lip, mouth cavity and baleen plates are bright white while on the left side these physical components are dark grey.
We first observed the Fin whales transiting slowly in close proximity to a large mixed group of Pilot whales and Bottlenose dolphins. While it is not unusual to observe whales and dolphins moving in proximity, the mixture of all three species was very unusual. During this observation of mixed species in close proximity the Fin whales were swimming slowly and changing direction frequently. It is possible that the Pilot whales were up to their typical aggressive behaviour shown towards cetacean species that enter into the Tenerife Pilot whales zones.
Later in the afternoon we observed the same two Fin whales transiting out of the Tent-Rasca Marine Protected area heading to open sea. At this point they were swimming at 14-17 knots with regular transiting behaviour, surfacing for 3 to 4 breaths every 5 to 7 minutes while maintaining direction.
Fin whales are not commonly observed on Tenerife whale watching tours, although they have regularly been reported throughout the Canarian Archipelago. The photos of the Fin whales dorsal fins we collected are being shared with several NGO’s, Research and Conservation Organisations to help aid in sighting documentation of the Fin whales found around Tenerife and the Canary Islands.
Thanks to everyone who joined us today for some thrilling observations of the worlds second largest whale species here in Tenerife – the Fin whales! We love whale watching in Tenerife, there are so many days with amazing encounters and often some wonderful surprises – today not one, but two of the largest whale species in the world!