The Harbor Porpoise

Phocoena phocoena

What Does The Harbor Porpoise Look Like?

The Harbor Porpoise can range in size anywhere from 4.9 to 6.6 feet in length, although the average size is generally around 5 feet. Females are actually slightly larger than males, but the average weight for an adult Harbor Porpoise is only around 121 pounds. These marine mammals have a short, immovable neck, and a blunt, rounded head, unlike the prominent foreheads and snouts of dolphins. Their mouths are short with black, inward-curved lips, and black, spade-shaped teeth. Harbor Porpoises usually have around 22-28 teeth on each side of their upper jaw, and 22-26 on each side of their lower jaw. They have a grayish body which tapers into a tail that features a middle notch and small, curved flanks. Their flippers are little, oval, rounded at the tips, and dark gray in color with a dark stripe that extends to their eye. Harbor Porpoises also have a low, wide, triangular-shaped dorsal fin located slightly behind the center of their body.
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Where Is It Found? And How Long Does It Live?

Harbor Porpoises like shoreline and shallow water environments, so they mainly inhabit the coastal waters of the Northern Hemisphere. These marine mammals are most commonly seen in harbors or bays, but have also been known to frequent inland waters such as rivers, estuaries, and tidal channels. Some populations of Harbor Porpoises migrate to other Northern bays; however, others do not. The average life span of a Harbor Porpoise in the wild is 20 years.

Who's The Predator And Who's The Prey?

The Harbor Porpoise has a few natural predators, such as orcas, large sharks, and bottlenosed dolphins, however, fishing gear is generally this marine mammal's biggest enemy. Harbor Porpoises mainly survive on a diet of fish, such as cod, herring, pollock, sardine, whiting, and occasionally they will eat a squid.
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Is It Endangered? How Have Humans Had An Impact On This Animal?

The Harbor Porpoise is not endangered, but it is listed by the World Conservation Union as vulnerable. Although this marine mammal is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Harbor Porpoise population is declining primarily because they are frequently caught by accident in commercial fishing nets. Around the early 1990s, as many as 3,000 drowned annually due to harmful commercial fishing gear, such as gill nets. These marine mammals are also being harmed by chemical and noise pollution, and destruction of their habitats. It was known that in earlier years, they were actually hunted by humans for their oil and meat.

Interesting Facts Time!

  • The Harbor Porpoise can dive really deep! These marine mammals can dive down more than 655 feet!
  • The Harbor Porpoise consumes about 10% of its body weight in fish each day
  • Harbor Porpoises are the smallest members of the whale family
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