Fin Whales in San Diego

Balaenoptera physalus

Fin whales are a resident species along the southern California coast. While Fin whales can be observed throughout the year, more Fin whales can be seen from March through the summer. Some solitary Fin whales can be found close to the coast, but groups of feeding Fin whales can be encountered farther offshore. For the best chance of seeing Fin whales in San Diego join us as we explore in our expanded range whale watching boat. We also recommend following our sightings reports posted to our Instagram and Facebook pages for the most up to date info.

Fin Whale Info

Description – Fin whales are the second largest whale species worldwide. They have a slender body that reaches over 80 feet in length and weighs up to 160,000 pounds. They are named for their pronounced dorsal fin and like all rorquals, have baleen plates and pleated throat grooves to aid in feeding. Their coloration is dorsally dark grey with two whitish chevrons behind the twin blow holes. Ventrally they have white body, fins and flukes. Unique to the Fin whale, the lower jaw is dark grey on the left and white on the right. This may help the Fin whale while feeding and it is one characteristic we look for when identifying Fin whales from other rorquals.

Range – Fin whales can be found worldwide. There is a large variation in the range of different populations and their migrations. While some populations migrate between polar regions in summers and subtropical areas in winters, there are other populations that do not appear to migrate at all. Examples of these resident populations include Fin whales in the Gulf of California and right here in the Southern California Bight. This means we have the opportunity to see Fin whales all year round off San Diego.

Behavior – Fin whales are known as the greyhounds of the sea, regularly swimming over 10mph and can reach over 25mph. We typically see Fin whales feeding or travelling. While they are solitary feeders, they are often seen in small groups of 3-5 whales when transiting. These whales consume up to 6 tons of krill a day and therefore devote much of the day to feeding. When diving the tail fluke is rarely shown, so individual whales are identified with photos of their dorsal fin. Their cone shaped exhalation cloud can reach 15 feet high and is another way to aid in identifying Fin whales.


The Fin whale is listed under the Endangered Species Act. The recent population estimate is 9,000 whales along the Pacific coast.

The main threats to Fin whales are from ship strikes, with several instances of mortality in recent years along Southern California. As with all cetaceans, entanglement in fishing gear, noise pollution and habitat degradation are stressors on this Fin whale population.

Oceanic Eco Tours participates in Fin whale conservation and research initiatives by ensuring our tours are not invasive to the whales activity, collecting photo and sightings data and eliminating ocean trash we encounter.