Fin whales, or fin-backed whales, are found in all major oceans and open seas. Some populations are migratory, moving into colder waters during the spring and summer months to feed. In autumn, they return to temperate or tropical oceans. Because of the difference in seasons in the northern and southern hemisphere, northern and southern populations of fin whales do not meet at the equator at the same time during the year. Other populations are sedentary, staying in the same area throughout the year. Non-migratory populations are found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of California.
In summer in the North Pacific Ocean, fin whales migrate to the Chukchi Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, and coastal California. In the winter, they are found from California to the Sea of Japan, East China and Yellow Seas, and into the Philippine Sea.
During the summer in the North Atlantic Ocean, fin whales are found from the North American coast to Arctic waters around Greenland, Iceland, north Norway, and into the Barents Sea. In the winter these fin whale populations are found from the ice edge toward the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico and from southern Norway to Spain.
In the southern hemisphere, fin whales enter and leave the Antarctic throughout the year. Larger and older whales tend to travel further south than younger ones.
Biogeographic Regions: arctic ocean (Native ); indian ocean (Native ); atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native ); mediterranean sea (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: cosmopolitan
- Gambell, R. 1985. Fin Whale, Balaenoptera physalus. Pp. 171-192 in S Ridgway, R Harrison, eds. Handbook of Marine Mammals, Vol. 3, first Edition. San Diego, CA: Academic Press Inc..
- Jefferson, T., S. Leatherwood, M. Webber. 1994. Marine Mammals of the World. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- Nowak, R. 1991. Balaenopteridae: Roquals. Pp. 969-1044 in R Nowak, ed. Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 2, Fifth Edition. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.