Tofino Wildlife Vol. 7 Harbour Porpoise

Over the coming weeks West Coast Aquatic Safaris will present a compilation of information on the wildlife of the Pacific Rim as well as some of the flora and fauna. Today we will begin a look at the Harbour Porpoise.

Also known as the Common Porpoise or Puffing porpoise they reside in the Cold-temperate and Sub Arctic waters of the Northern Hemisphere.  At birth the Harbour Porpoise is between 26-35 inches (66-89cm) in length.  The average size is 5 feet however they can get up to 6.5 feet. When they are born the Harbour Porpoise weigh approximately 11 pounds (5kg), average of 130 pounds (59kg) as adults but can way as much as 150 pounds (68kg)

The smallest porpoise are in the Pacific Northwest. Markings are not very distinct so it can be challenging to differentiate this porpoise from other species. Typically they possess black lips and one or two black streaks lead to all black flippers. The fins and flukes are also black. The flukes are pointed backward and are usually notched.

The Harbour Porpoise has the nickname Puffing Porpoise because when it breaks the surface it is often heard making a sneezing sound. The Harbour Porpoise are usually found in groups of 2–5 however they are sometimes found in larger groups for feeding.

They have a life span of about ten years and it appears that the population is declining rapidly. The Harbour Porpoise is believed to be dying from pollution and they often get caught in fishing nets and drown. There are now devices being developed called a pinger that can be attached to nets.  Pingers emit a noise that the porpoise doesn’t like and the hope is that this will keep the porpoises away from the nets.

Harbour Porpoise feed in the mid water column and eat small schooling fish such as anchovies and herrings. They will very rarely venture into water deeper than 200m.  The Harbour Porpoise mate in the summer with calves being born 11 months later.  Both the males and females will reach their sexual maturity by the age of 3 and 4.

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