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Identifying the different rorqual whales

a person standing on a boat in the water

Identifying the differnt rorqual whales can be surpringly tricky can be tricky

The easterly wind are keeping us off the water so I thought I would make a video. The whales we see off the Cornish coast are most likely to be minke whales, fin whales and occasionally sei whales (the rarest of these three). These whales are all in the rorqual family and can appear very similar sometimes, especially if you see juveniles of the larger whales along side adults of the smaller whales. Fin whales can be the biggest of the three growing to a colossal 22 metres, seis are next at up to 18 metres and the minkes are the smallest at 10 metres. Size at sea tends to be swallowed by the vastness of the ocean so estimating the size of an animal can be very tricky unless there is something to compare it to, such as a smaller animal already identified. Ideally the things you want to see to identify a minke whale are the white bands on it’s flippers. The give away on a fin whale is the white jawline on the righthand side ( they have an asymetric coloured jaw). Other more unreliable identifying traits can be blows, fin size and shape in relation to the animal and the angle and shape of the of the rostrum. Bearing in mind that we are looking at moving animals from varying angles from a low platform that is moving on the waves. This all makes it tricky and mis-identification is very possible. The most experienced researchers I have met are always the ones who recommend caution and are the most comfortable recording unidentified rorqual. I have made this video from an encounter we had back in 2017 with up to 2 fin whales and up to 3 minkes. Combining the video with photos allowed us to positively ID two of the whales. It was a great encounter so the video definitely deserves a second posting. I have included photos and explanation on how we identified the different whales.