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Gulf of Maine Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

harbor porpoise
Gulf of Maine Harbor Porpoise: (Photo: Ari Friedlaender)

Harbor porpoises occur in relatively discrete regional populations throughout temperate coastal waters of the Northern Hemisphere. One such population (referred to here as the Gulf of Maine population or stock) is confined to the southern Bay of Fundy and northern Gulf of Maine in summer, but occurs from Maine to New Jersey in the spring and fall and as far south as North Carolina in winter. In the 1980s information suggested that several thousand porpoises per year were being incidentally entangled and drowned in gillnet fisheries in the Bay of Fundy, Canada, and in waters off New England. Although the size of the porpoise population was unknown at that time, it was thought that the catch level was not sustainable. Recent population estimates and reduced by catch levels suggest that current incidental take levels have been sustainable of nearly 90,000 porpoises.

Range and Habitat:

Found throughout temperate coastal waters of the Northern Hemisphere

Status under Law:

Not listed

Conservation issues:

Incidental take in commercial gillnets

Physical characteristics:

At Birth At Maturity
Length 70-75 cm
1.57-1.68 m
Weight 5-6 kg
(11-13 lb)
61-76 kg
(134-168 lb)


24 years

Annual Report:

For more information, see the Harbor Porpoise section from the 2002 Annual Report

Download a copy: PDF (233 KB)

Additional Links:

National Marine Fisheries Service - Stock Assessment Reports

National Marine Fisheries Service - Harbor Porpoise

NOAA News - Feds Propose Expanded Use Of Pingers and Area Closures To Protect Harbor Porpoises

NASA - Scientific & Technical Information - Safeguarding Porpoises

National Marine Fisheries Service - A plan to reduce injuries and deaths of Harbor Porpoise due to accidental entanglement in fishing gear


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