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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel  Dave Jones

Other Sea Life


Dolphins & Porpoise

White-sided Dolphin
Common Dolphin
Common Bottlenose Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin
Spotted Dolphin
Striped Dolphin
Harbor Porpoise


Dolphins & Porpoises

Harbor Porpoise

Phocoena phoc

(Linneaus 1758)

Comments to webmaster

Harbor Porpoise Jason Lambert

Photograph by Jason Lambert on 9/11/08 Jeffrey's Ledge Pelagic. These animals are behaving in their most typical fashion, swimming away from the boat. Had these animals been further from the boat they would have been missed behind the small waves.

Harbor Porpoise  Wikipedia Public

Harbor Porpoise with penis extended.
Wikipedia Public
According to Kinze, Porpoises are related to dolphins, but in a separate family Phocoenidae. There are 6 species in the family. Porpoises are chiefly coastal and only a single member lives in the North Atlantic.

Harbor Porpoise Elusive Inshore Mammals
The Harbor Porpoise inhabits coastal water including fjords, bays, estuaries. and harbors. They are actually very common in the Gulf of Maine where they are usually seen very quickly when they happen to surface near the boat and immediately swim away. They occur in small groups or even as solitary animals.

Where To See
You may catch a glimpse of these delightful little creatures on any whale watch. They are best seen when the water is calm as they can hide behind even very small waves. Look quickly as they will not stay around long. Usually what happens is that the naturalist sees a splash by the boat and by the time they announce "Harbor Porpoise" they are long gone.  I do remember a whale watch off the NH coast with very calm seas.  A small group of Harbor Porpoise surfaced some distance from the boat and remained on the surface for some time.

Northern hemisphere in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In the Atlantic from Cape Hatteras to West Greenland including the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but not Hudson Bay. On the European side they are found near Iceland, and the Faeroe Islands, and from western Africa north to the Barents Sea. Not found in the Mediteranean. In the Pacific from Monterey Bay and central Japan to the Chukchi Sea, including the Aleutian chain, Sea of Okhotsk and northern Sea of Japan.

Harbor Porpoise Leonard Medlock

Photographed by Leonard Medlock on the Jeffrey's Ledge Pelagic on 9/11/08.

These Harbor Porpoise were unusually cooperative and surfaced close to the boat. The more typical behavior is to avoid boats. You can see they have already turned to swim away from the boat. This photograph only possible because the sea was dead calm.

Other Sea Life | Cetaceans  | White-sided | Common| Bottlenose | Risso's |Spotted & Striped | Harbor Porpoise  | Top of Page

Comments to webmaster

Folkens, Peter (2002) Guide to Marine Mammals of the World Alfred A. Knopf New York

Kinze, Carl Charistian (2001) Marine Mammals of the North Atlantic Princeton University Press Princeton NJ