Harbour Porpoises:
Threatened in the Bay of Fundy. 

Distribution and Habitat
Harbour porpoises generally live in coastal waters less than 150 meters deep, and their common name is derived from their regular appearance in bays and harbours. Sometimes people refer to porpoises as puffing pigs, probably because of their robust bodies and the puffing noise they make when they surface and breathe.

Natural Historyharbour porpoise
Harbour porpoises are generally shy animals, and tend to avoid boats underway. If you do encounter one in the wild, you'll likely only catch a quick glimpse of their back and small, triangular dorsal fin - like the picture above! They are one of the world's smallest cetaceans, growing to an average length of 1.55 m and a mass of 55 kilograms. Female porpoises are usually larger than males. It is believed that porpoises can live as long as 20 years. Harbour porpoises become sexually mature between 3 and 5 years of age. After that time, female porpoises usually produce one calf every year. Porpoises feed on primarily on herring (Clupea harengus), and also eat capelin (Mallotus villosus) and gadoid fishes such as pollack (Pollachius virens) and hake (Merluccius bilinearis). Porpoises also eat squid. Recently weaned porpoises eat euphausiid shrimp. Harbour porpoises are deep divers, capable of reaching depths in excess of 200 meters.

Status and Protection
Many harbour porpoise populations around the world have been depleted through bycatch in fisheries and the Bay of Fundy/Gulf of Maine stock is not exception. In Atlantic Canada, harbour porpoises are listed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). As well, Northwest Atlantic harbour porpoises are currently designated as a strategic stock under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) because bycatch levels remain high for this population. Harbour porpoises are listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable throughout their range.

Threats to the Species
Porpoise populations throughout their range continue to be threatened by incidental mortality in many fisheries. Hundreds of porpoise are killed in North American fisheries yearly. Chemical and noise pollution may also threaten this species.

Important Links:

Harbour Porpoise Release Program

harbour porpoise release program logoBegun in 1991, the Harbour Porpoise Release Program was developed by the Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station to assist herring weir operators safely remove harbour porpoises from their weir without loosing the trapped herring. 

Go to the Harbour Porpoise Release Program

This page designed by
Page revised September 30 2006
GMWSRS 24 Route 776, Grand Manan, NB, E5G 1A1
 © Grand Manan Whale & Seabird Research Station Inc.