During the months of February to June, an extraordinary phenomenon occurs on the Catalan coast which, although reported for decades by fishermen in the area, until now was little known in the field of research: the presence of fin whales feeding.

With the scientific name of Balaenoptera physalus, the fin whale is a whale that can reach up to 24 meters of longitud, being the biggest whale regularly found in the Mediterranean and the second largest whale in the world.

It is an animal about which very little is known. It is also a protected and endangered specie. With the dual aim of increasing the knowlede about the presence of this whale on our coasts and promoting its preservation, the Fin Whale Project has been underway since 2013.



To improve knowledge of the fin whale and the oceanographic conditions that favour its seasonal presence on the Catalan coast.


Raise public awareness and promote the conservation of the marine environment. By studying the species and its habitat, it is possible to determine the critical parameters for its conservation and make recommendations in this regard. Through information, it is possible to make people – both individuals and groups – more willing to collaborate in conservation.


Improve the ethical standards of cetacean field research through the development of more effective and less disturbing techniques for the animals.

Scope of action

Para alcanzar los objetivos descritos en el apartado anterior, el Proyecto Rorcual contempla distintos tipos de actividades:




This is carried out through marine campaigns and focuses on the study, monitoring and identification of the individuals sighted, as well as the study of the oceanographic environment that favours their presence and the main risks for the species in the area studied.

To publicise the work carried out, to educate people about the sea and its biodiversity, especially cetaceans, and how to act if you have a sighting of a cetacean specie.

It focuses on the communication of our activities and the dissemination of our research results, both within the scientific community and to the general public.

Study area

The Fin Whale Project covers the coastal area between Barcelona and Tarragona. The study area is a marine strip of 1944 km2 located between the towns of Castelldefels and Torredembarra, extending 15-20 miles offshore. The base port for the project’s marine campaigns is Vilanova i la Geltrú.

The network of contacts established with fishermen and sailors in the area allows us to record sightings of cetaceans from Palamós to Ametlla de Mar.

The Garraf Coast, of which the study area of the Fin Whale Project forms part, is the coastal area that stretches from Castelldefels to Cunit. Of recognised ecological importance, it is part of an area declared a Site of Community Importance (SCI) and a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA), and forms part of the Natura 2000 Network and the Plan for Areas of Natural Interest (PEIN). A new Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) of the northwest Mediterranean, the system of submarine slopes and canyons, has recently been incorporated.

Research lines


Creation of photo-identification catalogues of cetaceans in the area, specially fin whales.


Recording of breaths, movements and videos to describe their behaviour.

Presence and Distribution

We analyse occurrence data and make distribution maps in order to understand and predict their presence.


We analyse oceanographic parameters that may be linked to fin whales and other marine species in the area.

Citizen science – Fishermen

We collaborate with fishermen from 8 fishermen's associations in Catalonia to obtain data on the presence of fin whales and the state of the ecosystem.

Zooplankton sampling

We took zooplankton samples to determine the diet of the fin whales.


Analysis of the concentration of microplastics in zooplankton samples.

Biological samples

We take biological samples to obtain data on hormone concentration, genetics, stable isotopes and diet.


Analysis of size and proportions of fin whales from drone images.

Body condition

Study of the state of health of fin whales throughout the seasons.


We collaborate for the placement of hydrophones for the acoustic recording of cetaceans, especially fin whales, and the analysis of marine noise.

Marine traffic

We analyse the risk of collision of large vessels with fin whales in our waters.

Thermal camera

We evaluate the feasibility of the thermal camera for automatic detection of fin whales and its possible use for collision avoidance.

Satellite TAGs

We collaborate in the placement of satellite tags in order to follow the movements of the fin whale over a period of time.

Conservation and Marine Areas

With the knowledge acquired, we study conservation measures for the protection of rorquals and other cetaceans present on the Catalan coast.

General results

“We would like to thank all the volunteers and collaborators of the Fin Whale Project for their enthusiasm and effort. Without them this project would not be possible!”

The fin whale visits the Catalan coasts to feed during the spring months!

The first sightings of fin whales were recorded in 2011 and 2013, during occasional outings. From 2014 onwards, the Project’s research campaigns began to be carried out from March to the beginning of June. Daily trips are made whenever the weather permits.

Over the years we have defined the Catalan coast as a spring feeding area for fin whales. Relating oceanographic variables and accumulating a large number of sightings and generating a catalogue of more than 230 individuals.


Animals sighted with a feeding behaviour


Fieldwork research days


Fin whale sightings


Individuals identified by drone


Individuals identified by dorsal fin

Do you want to know more about the Fin Whale Project and how to collaborate?

The Rorqual Project is an initiative that EDMAKTUB has been developing since 2013, which has the authorization of the General Directorate of Sustainability of the Coast and the Sea of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge for the approach of cetaceans for scientific purposes in the Balearic Sea (rf116/3662).