Long-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas)

There are two species of the pilot whale; long-finned and short-finned. The long-finned inhabit the cold temperate to sub-polar waters in both the southern and northern hemisphere except for the North Pacific and the short-finned are found in the warmer waters on either side of the equator.

Pilot whales get their name because one whale usually leads the rest, a matriarch that they all follow. Pods of 10-50 individuals can be seen travelling together but pods of 100+ are also not unusual.

The long-finned pilot whale mainly stays in the deep waters feeding on squid however in July 2012 we observed this species for some days. The first day was a bit unsettling as they were stranding on the beach of Njarðvík so our whale watching tour turned into a bit of a rescue mission to try and get in between the whales and the land and push them back out to sea. Last time this happened was at Þorlákshöfn in 1986 where around 100 animals were found dead on the beach.

Length: 3-8 meters
Weight: 5-9 tons
Life expectancy: 35-45 years for males, 60 years for females
Est. population around Iceland: ~ 35,000
Social behaviour: Very social, usual group size is between 3-50
Diet: Fish, squid
Suborder: Odontoceti – Toothed Whale
Family: Delphinidae
IUCN Listing: Data deficient
Major Threats:        Hunting, climate change, chemical and noise pollution, ship strikes, capture for captivity and prey depletion
Icelandic Name: Grindhvalur