Harbour Porpoise

Harbour Porpoise ©Niki Clear

Harbour porpoise

Scientific name: Phocoena phocoena
The smallest and most numerous UK cetacean. Listen out for the loud "chuff" as they come to the surface to breathe - giving them the nickname "Puffing Pig"!

Species information

Statistics

Length: 1.4-2m Weight: 55-65kg Average Lifespan: up to 20 years

Conservation status

Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, listed under CITES Appendix II and classified as a Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Also protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996

When to see

January to December

About

Harbour porpoises can be spotted close to shore in relatively shallow water, especially in tidal races and around headlands. They are usually solitary or in small feeding groups of up to 10. They are pretty shy and will avoid boats and jetskis - though they are known to be more curious in some areas around the UK. Harbour Porpoises give birth to a small calf every 1-2 years, normally in early summer.

How to identify

Look out for a small, triangular dorsal fin breaking the surface. Harbour porpoise are small and stocky, with a dark grey back and lighter underbelly. Their faces are rounded and have no beak.

Distribution

Found all around the UK.

Did you know?

Harbour porpoises are eating machines! They are warm-blooded mammals and their small size means they have to feed constantly to keep their body temperature up in our chilly seas. They feed mainly on fish, including sand eels, herring and whiting.

How people can help

Report your harbour porpoise sightings to your local Wildlife Trust. If you spot Harbour Porpoise whilst at sea, maintain a distance of at least 100m, especially if a calf is present. If the porpoises approach you, maintain a constant speed and allow them to interact on their own terms and leave at will. If you find a stranded harbour porpoise (dead or alive), please report it to the relevant authority (see www.wildlifetrusts.org/living-seas/marine-protected-areas/sightings). The Wildlife Trusts are working with offshore developers to mitigate against the impacts of noise disturbance on harbour porpoise and other marine life. You can support our work by joining your local Wildlife Trust or by checking out our Action Pages.