Wildlife of The Solway Firth – The Harbour Porpoise

Wildlife of the Solway Firth. The Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena Phocoena)

Wildlife of The Solway Firth – The Harbour Porpoise
(Phocoena Phocoena) 

by Mark Vollers

The Solway Firth is an excellent place to look out for the Harbour Porpoise as they are one of the smallest but most commonly spotted cetaceans ( toothed whales) along with Bottlenose and Common Dolphins.

Porpoises grow to be between 1.2 and 1.8 m. long, with a dark grey body and paler belly and as adults the females are  larger and heavier ( up to 76kg).  Their population is distributed over the North Atlantic, North Pacific and the Black Sea and at last estimate numbers around 700,000.

They favour inshore waters and estuaries, sometimes travelling a distance upstream, so The Solway Firth suits them well and they are probably present all the year round.

 Wildlife of the Solway Firth. The Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena Phocoena)

Porpoises rarely leap clear of the water and generally all you will see is a small sickle shaped dorsal fine breaking the surface, and maybe if you are close enough you might hear their sharp surface exhalation which has led to their alternative name of ‘Puffing Pig’!

They feed on small fish such as Herring, Pollack, Codling and Sprats. They are preyed on by Killer Whales and sometimes killed but not eaten by Dolphins for reasons as yet not fully understood.

Commercial fishing, particularly the use of bottom set gill nets which can be up to 20 km. long kills thousands every year.  Porpoises can typically live for between 12 and 15 years, with females calving annually from the age of 3 after a  gestation period of 10-11 months.

Check  Lake District Coast Aquarium facebook page to learn more about amazing wildlife on the Solway Coast.

Wildlife of the Solway Firth. Red List Least Concern

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