Harbour Porpoise - Phocoena phocoena
Population trend: Unknown … Harbour Porpoise stay close to the surface, breathing frequently with a puffing sound a bit like a sneeze
Type: Mammal (Cetacean)
Location: Cold temperate to sub-polar waters of the Northern Hemisphere.
Size: 1.4 - 1.9 metres in length (adult).
Habitat: Mainly continental shelf waters.
Main Threats: This species is listed as of least concern in the IUCN Red List, and research estimates a global population of 700,000 harbour porpoises. However, there is evidence of decline in some regions, such as the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. The population using UK seas is currently thought to be stable.
The harbour porpoise has been hunted in many areas of its range. Many of these fisheries are now closed, but hunting of harbour porpoises still occurs in Greenland. Today, the most significant threat to harbour porpoises is incidental catches in fishing gear, primarily gill nets. Other types of threats include chemical pollution, boat traffic, noise and overfishing depleting their prey. They live near the shore, as their name suggests, so are particularly vulnerable to coastal sources of pollution.
There are several species of porpoise found around the world, with the vaquita in the Gulf of California being one of the most endangered cetacean species. The English word porpoise comes from the French pourpois, which comes from the latin word porcopiscu: a compound of porcus (pig) and piscus (fish).The harbour porpoise stays close to coastal areas or river estuaries, and as such, is the most familiar porpoise to sea users.
Did you know?
- Also known as ‘puffing pig’, ‘herring hog’, and ‘sea pig’.
- Give birth to one calf every year to every other year with a gestation period of 10-12 months.
- Fairly solitary, usually travelling alone or in groups of around five individuals.
What MCS is doing:
- Advising the fishing industry on fishing methods that reduce bycatch, whilst advising chefs and restaurants, consumers and retailers about which seafood is of least threat to porpoises and other cetaceans;
- Campaigning to reduce marine litter that can be ingested or cause entanglement, and to reduce other pollution to improve water quality for porpoises in UK waters;
- Pushing for a well-managed network of marine protected areas to protect porpoises and their habitats in the UK.