Harbor Porpoise

Latin: Phocoena phocoena
English: Harbor porpoise
Norwegian: Nise

The harbor porpoise is the most commonly seen and studied member of its family, even though it is generally wary of boats and little of its body shows when it surfaces. Once glimpsed, it can be recognized by its low dorsal fin and absence of a beak.

The upper body is grey to black, including the small flippers and flukes. The white on the belly and flank turns to gray as it extends high up to the sides.

The blow of the harbor porpoise is rarely seen but can be heard.

Found mainly in cool, coastal waters throughout the Northern Hemisphere, the porpoise travels in groups of two to five, surfacing about eight times a minute with a slow, forward-rolling motion.
When feeding it might surface to breath about 4 times every 10 to 20 seconds before diving for 2 to 6 minutes.

It is the shortest lived cetacean, rarely surviving past the age of 12 years.


photo: Jenny van Twillert

North Atlantic Society 2012