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Seven baleen whale species have been recorded in the Falkland Islands, of which three species (the blue whale, humpback whale and pygmy right whale) appear to be relatively rare. The southern right whale and the minke whales are considered species of Least Concern globally, while the fin and sei whales are both threatened (classified as Vulnerable and Endangered, respectively). Larger toothed whales also inhabit the oceanic waters around the Falklands. The sperm whale has a global conservation status of Vulnerable. At least seven species of poorly-known beaked whale have been documented either as rare sightings at sea, or as strandings in the Islands.

Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis)

Southern right whales migrate between summer subantarctic feeding areas and winter breeding grounds in South America, Africa and Australasia.

They have a broad body without a dorsal fin, a V-shaped blow, and a head pattern of yellow hard skin called callosities.

Populations have steadily increased since the cessation of whaling.

They use oceanic Falkland waters while migrating, and for feeding during summer. Sightings occur in nearshore Falkland waters during autumn and winter (May-August), including surface active groups. These are presumed to be early socialising activities prior to animals continuing north to their main breeding grounds.

Minke whales

Two species of minke whale occur throughout the southern hemisphere: the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) and the common minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata).

Both species make seasonal migrations between warm winter breeding areas and cooler summer feeding grounds.

They are small in size (up to 10m) with pointed heads and falcate dorsal fins. The common minke whale also has white flipper patches.

In the Falklands, minke whales are usually seen alone. They are found from nearshore waters close to kelp beds, to deep oceanic areas. Sightings in Falkland waters have occurred during most months of the years.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Fin whales are distributed worldwide, although separate southern and northern hemisphere populations exist. Their occurrence around the Falkland Islands is poorly understood, partly due to potential confusion with the sei whale.

Fin whales can be recognised from their large body size (maximum 27m), sloped dorsal fins, and asymmetric colouration featuring a white lower jaw on the right side of the head.

Around the Falklands, the species appears to be most numerous in waters deeper than 200m, with fewer confirmed sightings from shallow coastal areas. Records occur mostly during the peak of summer, between November and January.

Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

Sperm whales are the largest toothed whale species (maximum 19m), and inhabit oceanic waters worldwide. Their distribution differs between the sexes, with cooler regions such as the Falklands occupied primarily by mature males and ‘bachelor pods’ of immature males.

Sperm whales are recognised from their large square-shaped heads, wrinkled skin, low dorsal hump and forward-angled blows. In the Falklands, they occur year-round in deep water (>200m) areas, usually alone or in small groups.

They are known to take Patagonian toothfish from longline fisheries around the Falklands, and these depredations are the focus of ongoing mitigation work.

Sei whale

The endangered sei whale is an iconic marine species in Falkland waters, and the focus of dedicated research by Falklands Conservation. It is the most frequently-sighted whale species in the Islands, and a dedicated page provides information on its occurrence.

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SEI whale projects

Marine Management

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