The wealth of the waters around the Falkland Islands is well documented with regard to fisheries, as well as being a world hot-spot for many seabird species. However, little is known about the relative importance of Falkland Islands' waters for marine mammals. There are approximately 25 species occurring in Falkland Islands' waters although many are restricted to deep oceanic waters, rarely seen or are on migration passing on route to Antarctica or warmer waters in higher latitudes. Some species are resident in the Falklands including the tourist attracting killer whales at Sea Lion Island and the two coastal dolphin species – Commerson's and Peale's dolphins. 



Baleen whales

Toothed whales

Beaked whales

Commerson's Dolphin(Cephalorhynchus commersonii)

Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus)

Southern Rightwhale Dolphin(Lissodelphis peronii)

Hourglass Dolphin(Lagenorhyncheus cruciger)

Spectacled Porpoise (Phocoena dioptrica)

Peale's Dolphin(Lagenorhynchus australis)



Southern Right Whales(Eubalaena australis)

Pygmy Right Whale (Caperea marginata)

Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis)

Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus)

Humpback Whale(Megaptera novaeangliae)

Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

Long-Finned Pilot Whale(Globicephala melas)

Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)







Arnoux's Beaked Whale(Berardius arnuxii)

Southern Bottlenose Whale(Hyperoodon planifrons)

Gray's Beaked Whale(Mesoplodon grayi)

Hector's Beaked Whale(Mesoplodon hectori)

Strap-Toothed Whale(Mesoplodon layardii)

Cuvier's Beaked Whale(Ziphius cavirostris)

Andrew's beaked whale (Mesoplodon bowdoini)

Whale and dolphin species sighted in the Falkland waters.

Download and fill in your cetacean sightings in the Falklands with the Cetacean Calendar below.

pdfCetacean Calendar 2011-2012730.66 KB

Species Profiles:

Peale's Dolphin


The Peale's dolphin is the most numerous and most frequently encountered cetacean around the Falkland Islands and are seen in groups ranging from 1 to 15 animals. They are present around the Falklands throughout the year and restricted to shelf waters less than 200m deep. It would seem probable that there is a continuous distribution from the Falklands to South America - this is supported by transect observations recording the species from the Falklands coast to Chile. The species is inquisitive and frequently approaches vessels to bow-ride and this may result in the species being more visible during surveys. Peale's dolphins are also seen in inshore waters where it is often found feeding along kelp beds and in this environment can overlap with Commerson's dolphins.  

Commerson's dolphin

commersonIn the Falkland Islands, Commerson's dolphins are relatively commonly sighted in inshore coastal waters all year, particularly in sheltered waters of less than 10m in depth, such as bays, harbours, river mouths and around kelp beds. Almost all of the records of this species made during at-sea surveys of 1998 - 2000 are within 10km of the shore and no records were made further than 25km offshore. They appear to be opportunistic bottom feeders, taking mysid shrimps, fish and squid.

Locally, the Commerson's dolphin is called the Puffing pig.

Fin whale

The fin whale is classified as Endangered. Like the blue whale, the fin whale was severely reduced worldwide by modern commercial whaling. Fin whales were once commonly sighted in the Falkland Islands as they migrated from the coast of Brazil to their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic. The whaling records from New Island (West Falklands) during 1900 – 1905 are mostly of fin whales but it is possible that they were mistaken for sei whales. Today, fin whales are not often sighted in Falkland Islands waters. During at-sea surveys in 1998 – 2000, 57 fin whales were sighted particularly between November and January and were most commonly sighted in waters greater than 200m on the continental slope and adjacent to the Burdwood Bank.

Sei whale

Sei_WhaleThe sei whale is classified as Endangered. Sei whales were heavily exploited in Southern Hemisphere whaling grounds once the stocks of blue and fin whales had been reduced. The extent to which stocks have recovered since then is uncertain because there has been relatively little research in recent years. Sei whales passed the Falkland Islands on migration, which supported a whaling industry at New Island in the early part of this century. Sei whales were recorded on 31 occasions in groups of 1-3 individuals during at-sea surveys of 1998 – 2000. They were most common during the austral summer between November and April on the Patagonian shelf and shallower waters to the east of the Falklands.





Southern minke whale

The southern minke whale has a circumpolar distribution from Antarctica to almost equatorial regions. In the Falkland Islands, minke whales were recorded on 60 occasions during  at-sea surveys of 1998– 2000, usually alone and mostly during the austral summer over the Patagonian shelf, around East Falklands and to the northwest of the Falklands zone. There is some scientific whaling of minke whales in Antarctic waters by Japanese whaling fleets, but this occurs in the Pacific/Indian sectors of the Southern Ocean and is unlikely to involve the stock of minke whales that migrate through the waters of the Falkland Islands.

Sperm whale

The sperm whale has a global distribution and individuals found north and south of the equator are thought to be from separate breeding stocks, with seasonal movement from the equator to the polar regions. Sperm whales sighted in Falkland Islands' waters are most likely to be males - as most females and their calves remain in the warmer waters at higher latitudes. During at-sea surveys of 1998 - 2000, 28 individuals were sighted on 21 occasions throughout the year, particularly in waters greater than 200m around the Burdwood Bank and in the extreme north. Sperm whales have stranded in the Falkland Islands on five occasions, the last being at Race Point Farm in 2011. There are relatively high interactions with sperm whales in the toothfish longline fishery with sperm whales often appearing once line hauling commences. The Falkland Islands Fisheries Department adapted a new method of fishing, which involves protecting the hooks in a net sleeve to prevent sperm whales targeting the toothfish.

Beaked whales

Seven species of beaked whale have been recorded stranded in the Falkland Islands with only the southern bottlenose whale recorded as a live sighting. Most sightings were between September and February in deep oceanic waters off East Falklands during at-sea surveys of 1998 - 2000. The biology, distribution and abundance of most beaked whale species are not well known. Most species appear to have circumpolar distributions from Antarctica to the low latitudes. The frequency of strandings in the Falkland Islands suggest that some species such as Gray's beaked whale and strap-toothed beaked whale are more common relative to Andrew's beaked whale and Hector's beaked whale. Most beaked whales normally inhabit deep ocean waters (>2,000 m) or continental slopes (200 – 2,000m) where they feed on deep-water mesopelagic squid and some fish species. The anatomy and behaviour of the beaked whale makes them very sensitive to anthropogenic noises such as sonar and airgun arrays, which may increase strandings.

Killer whale (Orca)

orcaThe killer whale is the largest member of the dolphin family and has a worldwide distribution in both coastal and oceanic waters. Behaviour varies within its range but killer whales often form strong family groups, with pods specialising in oneOrca_jump prey. During the summer months in the Falkland Islands when penguins and pinnipeds are breeding, killer whales are commonly sighted in coastal waters and there appears to be at least one resident pod to the southeast of the archipelago around Sea Lion Island and Beauchêne Island. Killer whales seen in the Falkland Islands fit the description of the A-type whale.  On Sea Lion Island, the killer whales use ambush and shallow water hunting techniques along rocky outcrops and beaches used by elephant seal pups and juveniles.

Photos - Killer whales at Sea Lion Island stalking elephant seal pups (left) and a rare sighting of an individual breaching off Sea Lion Island



Long-finned pilot whale

The long-finned pilot whale has a worldwide distribution in both coastal and oceanic waters. In the Falkland Islands, it was one of the more frequently recorded cetacean species during the 1998 – 2000 at-sea surveys, with 27 records of 872 animals in pods of between 2 - 200 whales, particularly in water depths greater than 200m and during winter months. Long-finned pilot whales are often seen in association with other cetacean species, particularly southern right whale dolphins and hourglass dolphins. The long-finned pilot whale has a propensity to strand and it is the most commonly stranded whale in the Falkland Islands. Five hundred and seventy five long-finned pilot whales were sampled from six mass strandings of between 27 and 273 animals on the beaches during 2000 and 2006. The pilot whales feed mainly on the mesopelagic squid- Moroteuthis ingens with hoki (Macruronus magellanicus) being of secondary importance especially for large males.