Short-finned Pilot Whale
Globicephala macrorhynchus


Scientific Name: Globicephala macrorhynchus

Other Names: Pothead Whale, Pacific Pilot Whale, Shortfin Pilot Whale, Blackfish

Suborder: Odontoceti

Family: Delphinidae  

Short-finned Pilot Whales are generally black (though it may appear brown or grey at times) with a bulbous head and little or no beak. The dorsal fin is set foward (about a 1/3 of the body length from the head) and is low and falcate with a broad base. There is sometimes a pale white, diagonally upwards stripe behind the eye a greyish 'saddle patch' behind the dorsal fin and an anchor shaped white patch on the chest. The flippers and long and sickle-shaped.
These cetaceans are highly social with strong family bonds which may account for the fact that this species is often involved in mass stranding events. They are often seen logging and allow boats to approach quite closely. They barely breach but may lobtail and spyhop and surf in large waves.

Maximum Length
Male: 7.2m, usually 6.8m
Female: 5.5m
Calf: 1.4 - 1.9m

Maximum Weight
Male: 1 - 4 tons
Calf: 60 kg

Short-finned Pilot Whale Ecology

Range: Tropical and warm temperate waters between  50ºN - 40ºS.

Usual Habitat: Generally found in deep waters especially over the continental slope in areas of steep bottom topography.

Usual group size: 15 - 50 individuals, sometimes found in groups of up to 100, often with 8 adult females to each adult male.

Main Diet: Mainly squid, although they do eat octopus and fish

Local population: Unknown

Global range of the Short-finned Pilot Whale

Dark blue areas indicate where Short-finned Pilot Whales are likely to be found
 Conservation Information
Protection and Conservation Status

IUCN Conservation Status: 
Pilot Whales
are listed as "Data Deficient" on the IUCN red list.

SPAW Protocol:  Pilot Whales are cetaceans, which are listed under Annex II of the SPAW protocol. As such they require total protection under article 11 of this protocol which prohibits the "taking, possession, killing and commercial trade of the species, their parts or products". The SPAW protocol was created to help with the implementation and promotion of the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Annexes of the SPAW protocol can be found here.

Local Laws: Cetaceans are protected under the Conservation of Wildlife Act of Trinidad and Tobago which offers protection to all species not listed under the second or third schedules of this act. 
Reports of Short-finned Pilot Whales in Trinidad and Tobago
This is currently being researched and written. It will appear here shortly.

The above information was obtained from the following sources:

  • A Princeton Field Guide: Whales Dolphins and Other Marine Mammals of the World by Hadoram Shirihai and Brett Jarrett (2006)
  • Smithsonian Handbooks: Whales Dolphins and Porpoises by Mark Carwardine and illustrated by Martin Camm (2002)
  • The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society's Species Guide at
  • The IUCN Redlist at
  • The SPAW protocol Annexes with links available at,83

We would like to thank the following people for the use of the art work and photographs:

  • Alësha Naranjit (Illustration of Short-finned Pilot Whale)
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