Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) COSEWIC assessment and status report: chapter 14

Technical Summary - Pacific Population

Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whale (Pacific population) – rorqual commun (population du Pacifique)

Range of Occurrence in Canada:

North Pacific

Extent and Area Information

Extent of occurrence (EO) (km²)

>20,000 km²

Specify trend in EO:

None known

Are there extreme fluctuations in EO?


Area of occupancy (AO) (km²)

>20,000 km²

Specify trend in AO:

None known

Are there extreme fluctuations in AO?


Number of known or inferred current locations


Specify trend in #:


Are there extreme fluctuations in number of locations?


Specify trend in area, extent or quality of habitat:

None known

Population Information

Generation time (average age of parents in the population):

20–30 years

Number of mature individuals:


Total population trend:


% decline over the last/next 10 years or 3 generations.


Are there extreme fluctuations in number of mature individuals?


Is the total population severely fragmented?


Specify trend in number of populations:

None known

Are there extreme fluctuations in number of populations?


List populations with number of mature individuals in each:

not applicable

Threats (actual or imminent threats to populations or habitats)

  • Collisions with large vessels
  • Interactions with fisheries including entanglement in gear
  • Noise pollution from industrial and recreational activities
  • Chemical pollution

Rescue Effect (immigration from an outside source)

Status of outside population(s)?

Similarly depleted

Is immigration known or possible?

Yes, possible

Would immigrants be adapted to survive in Canada?


Is there sufficient habitat for immigrants in Canada?


Is rescue from outside populations likely?

Yes, likely

Quantitative Analysis

None available

Current Status

COSEWIC: Threatened (May 2005)

Status and Reasons for Designation

Status:  Threatened

Alpha-numeric code:  A1d

Reasons for Designation: Currently sighted only infrequently on former whaling grounds off British Columbia. Coastal whaling took at least 7,600 animals from the population between 1905 and 1967, and thousands of additional animals were taken by pelagic whalers through the 1970s. Catch rates from coastal whaling stations declined precipitously off British Columbia in the 1960s. Based on the severe depletion and lack of sufficient time for recovery, it is inferred that present population is below 50% of its level, 60–90 years ago. Individuals continue to be at risk from ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear.

Applicability of Criteria

  • Criterion A (Declining Total Population): Given the extent of whaling in the Northeast Pacific (the fin whale catch off British Columbia was in sharp decline when shore whaling ceased in 1967 after taking many thousand animals) as well as the low potential rate of increase, the population is likely to be less than 50% of its abundance 3 generations ago (A1d).
  • Criterion B (Small Distribution, and Decline or Fluctuation): AO and EO > 20,000 km².
  • Criterion C (Small Total Population Size and Decline): A small population but no evidence of current decline.
  • Criterion D (Very Small Population or Restricted Distribution): Numbers migrating through BC waters are unknown.
  • Criterion E (Quantitative Analysis): No quantitative analysis has been undertaken.
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