Large Whale Species of New England


Finback Whale (Size: Up to 80 feet in length)

 Finback Whale, lighter on right side Finback whale   

Features: Grayish, sleek whale with tall, curved dorsal fin. Head lighter on right side. Rarely lifts tail.

Range: Same areas as the humpback whale, but not always at the same time. 

Food: Mostly small schooling fish like sand lance, herring, young mackerel, and krill.


Humpback Whale (Size: Up to 55 feet in length)

Humpback whale drawing   Views of Humpback whale breaching and tail

Features: Mostly black with long white flippers, bumps on head and distinctive, variably sized dorsal fin. Usually lifts the tail when diving. Distinctive black and white pattern underneath.

Range: During spring, summer and fall these whales are found most often around the sloping sides of the banks and ledges of the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and the continental shelf south of the Islands.

Food: Mostly small schooling fish like sand lance, herring, young mackerel, and krill.


Minke Whale (Size: Up to 30 feet in length)

Minke Whale   Minke Whale

Features: Sickle-shaped dorsal fin, white bands on flippers, with no visible breath (spout). Rarely lifts tail.

Range: Same as Humpback and Finback whales, but also found in closer to shore.

Food: Same as Humpback and Finback whales. Sometimes eats single discarded fish.


North Atlantic Right Whale (very rare)* (Size: Up to 60 feet long)

North Atlantic Right Whale   North Atlantic Right Whale

Features: Stocky, mostly black whale with no dorsal fin and rough white patches on head. Usually lifts black, triangular tail high when diving.

Range: Winter/Spring in Cape Cod Bay & Great South Channel.. Summer/Fall in Bay of Fundy & Roseway Basin. 

Food: Small animal plankton, mostly copepods.

With about 300 remaining, both Massachusetts and federal regulations establish a 500 yard buffer zone around this species. That zone can only be entered with special authorization through the Network or USCG to assist the Disentanglement Network.

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