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Harbor Porpoise

Phocoena phocoena

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This is one of the smallest species of porpoise, with adults rarely measuring longer than 6 feet (1.8 m) and weighing less than 170 lbs (77 kg). Adult females will be slightly larger than males. The porpoise’s body is dark gray, often with speckled sides and a lighter colored belly. They have a triangular-shaped dorsal fin and a small, almost imperceptible beak.

This porpoise feeds mostly on schooling fish including Pacific Herring, plus squid and crustaceans. They are hunted by Orcas and Great White Sharks and some dolphins may kill them if they are competing for food supplies.

Range and Habitat

Subspecies of the Harbor Porpoise can be found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Pacific variety can be found from the Sea of Japan east to the west coast of North America. Their southern boundary is California. A favorite animal for whale watchers, the Harbor Porpoise stays close to shore, often venturing into estuaries, bays, harbors or even miles up rivers.

Conservation Status

Common. Harbor Porpoises have been hunted by people since prehistoric times. Harvesting of this species reached its height during the nineteenth century when the animal’s natural oils were widely used for lamp fuel. After the middle of the twentieth century, however, markets for Harbor Porpoise disappeared and the only place where its meat is regularly consumed by humans is in Greenland. Still, a variety of environmental factors including noise pollution, climate change and over-harvesting of the porpoises’ prey present ongoing challenges.