Finless porpoise
Neophocaena phocaenoides
Threat Index

Max Length:
Male: 2.00 m
Female: 2.00 m
Calf: 0.75 - 0.85 m

Max Weight:
Male: 55 kg
Female: 55 kg

Est. Population: Unknown

Diet: Fish, Squid, Crustaceans

IUCN Listing: VU (Yangtze River sub-species listed as EN)
CMS Appendix: II
CITES Appendix: I
Black finless porpoise, Black porpoise, Finless porpoise

Related Projects:
WDCS Supported project in Taiwan

The finless porpoise is the only porpoise without a dorsal fin and is easily recognisable at sea. The low profile makes it nearly invisible if the seas are rough. This species is also misleadingly called the black porpoise; it is generally a pale blue-grey, with juveniles being darker, and only turns black after death. The name came from descriptions of animals that had been found already dead and washed up on beaches. Calves have been sighted riding on the mother's back, gripping the dorsal ridge, and coming out of the water when the mother breathes.

The finless porpoise has a dorsal ridge along its back that runs from above the flippers to the beginning of the tail stock. This ridge is covered in circular wart-like tubercles or bumps. It is one of the smallest cetaceans and the only porpoise to have a bulbous melon - there is no prominent beak. Roughly half the population of finless porpoises have pink eyes. The mouth is small and curves slightly upwards and there is a slight depression behind the blowhole. The finless porpoise has a small, streamlined body and is pale grey-blue in colour with a lighter belly and white chin. Adults usually grow to between 1.2 and 2.0 metres in length. In some populations they may be larger reaching 2.27 metres.

Finless porpoises are active animals, usually swimming in small groups or alone. They swim just below the surface of the water with sudden, darting movements. Little disturbance is caused when they break the surface and they tend to roll onto their sides when doing so. They have been known to spyhop, but are rarely seen breaching. They are found in coastal, estuarine and riverine areas, and they are generally shy, apart from some individuals living in the Yangtze River, China, which have become accustomed to heavy boat traffic.

The finless porpoise is found in tropical to temperate waters of the Indo-Pacific region. There are three distinct subspecies of finless porpoises. These are: (1) N. p. asiaeorientalis – found in the Yangtze River, China; (2) N. p. sunameri - coastal waters around Japan and Korea; and (3) N. p. phocaenoides - coastal and riverine waters in other parts of Asia. Typically an inshore species, the finless porpoise also occurs in fresh water and is rarely seen more than 5 km from the coast. The worldwide population of finless porpoises is unknown and the species is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN (2008). The major threat to finless porpoises is entanglement in fishing nets, especially gillnets. Other threats include hunting, live capture for display, human disturbance, habitat degradation, boat strikes and chemical and noise pollution.