Marine Mammals

in Chile

Through our research since 2003 we found 13 different species of marine mammals in Chile

Southern Fin whale

Balaenoptera quoyi

Chile: Southern hemisphere population migrates yearly between the equator and Antarctica. In the Gulf of Corcovado, fin whales are seen feeding during the months December-March either solitary, mother calf pairs or in larger feeding groups.

Group formation: Solitary-gregarious (2-15 loose, feeding groups > 100)
Size: males 22-25m, females 24-27m, calf 6.5m
Weight: 40-80 tons, calf 1.8 tons
Spout: ca 6m, narrow
Age: 90-140 yrs
Sexual maturity: 6-12 yrs
Physical maturity: 20-30 yrs
Gestation: 11 months, 2-3 yrs between births
Weaning: 6-7 months
Diet: mostly euphausiids and amphipods, and some small schooling fish.
Distribution: Northern and Southern hemisphere sub-species, cosmopolitan from tropic to Polar Regions
Population size: global ca. 100.000-190.000, heavily exploited
Conservation Status: Endangered A1d ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: Vessel collisions, whaling (Iceland, Greenland, Japan), plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), over fishing (e.g. krill in Antarctica)

Humpback whale

Megaptera novaeangliae

Chile: Migrate from breeding grounds in Columbia to feeding grounds along the coast of southern Chile (Gulf of Corcovado, Magellan strait) to Antarctic waters south to the ice edge, animals can be seen in Aysen November-June.

Group formation: Solitary – gregarious (mother-calf pair/male escort, larger feeding groups)
Size: males 13-14 m, females 15-16 m, calf 6 m
Weight: males 28 t, females 33 t, calf 2 t
Spout: 3-6 m
Age: 45-100 yrs
Sexual maturity: males 7 yrs, females 5 yrs
Physical maturity: ca. 20 yrs
Gestation: 11-12mths, with 2-3 yrs in between
Weaning: 6-7 months
Diet: Krill and copepods in the Southern Oceans.
Distribution: Worldwide with 4 populations, in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Southern Oceans
Population size: global ca. 80.000, heavily exploited (90% reduced)
Conservation Status: Least Concern ver 3.1, Pop. trend: increasing
Threats: Vessel collisions, whaling (Greenland, Japan, Caribbean island Bequia in the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines), plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, over fishing

Blue whale

Balaenoptera musculus

Chile: seen along the coast of Chile (feeding grounds in the Gulf of Corcovado) on their migrations to their breeding grounds at the equator

Group formation: Solitary (mother-calf pair)
Size: males 29 m, females 33 m, calf 7 m
Weight: males 150 t, females 180 t, calf 2.7 t
Spout: 12 m
Age: 60-120 yrs
Sexual maturity: unknown ca 5-15 yrs
Physical maturity: ca. 20 yrs
Gestation: 10-12 mths, with 2-3 yrs in between
Weaning: 6-8 mths
Diet: Krill (euphausiids)
Distribution: Worldwide in all oceans, blue whales in the northern hemisphere are smaller than in the southern hemisphere, north-south migrations
Chile: seen along the coast of Chile (feeding grounds in the Gulf of Corcovado) on their migrations to their breeding grounds at the equator
Population size: global 10.000-25.000, heavily exploited (70-90% reduced)
Conservation Status: Endangered A1abd ver 3.1, Pop. trend: increasing
Threats: Vessel collisions, chemical and plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, over fishing

Long-finned Pilot whale

Globicephala melas

Chile: off the coast in deeper water, Beagle channel, but mostly unknown.

Group formation: Matrifocal groups (5-15) several matrilineal groups (size 50-200)
Size: males 7.8 m, females 5.8 m, calf 1.8 m
Weight: males 2.3 t, females 1.3 t, calf 100 kg
Age: males 40 yrs, females 60 yrs
Sexual maturity: males 12-15 yrs, females 6-15 yrs
Gestation: 12-15 mths, 3-5 yrs in between births
Weaning: 27 months or longer (up to 10 years)
Diet: squid (cephalopods) and some fish
Distribution: Two sub-species: North Atlantic (Globicephala melas melas) widespread to at least 68° N, and the Southern Hemisphere (Globicephala melas edwardii) from 19–60° S. They do not share the warmer waters with short-finned pilot whales.
Conservation Status: Data Deficient ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: whaling (Faeroe Islands, Japan, Greenland), plastic and chemical pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, over fishing, captivity.

Seismic surveys used to find oil, gas and deep sea minerals are one of the biggest problems in the sea nowadays, especially the coats of Norway is full of such surveys during the summer months when most whales migrate, feed and breed there! These extremely loud sounds (SL 260dB) can killer marine mammals directly or scare them away on longer distances, these signals can be heard over 3000km away!

This video demonstrates seismic surveys 300-500km away and pilot whales in the Vestfjord:

Killer Whales or Orca

Orcinus orca

Chile: Orcas are distribution all along the coast, but low in numbers, can be seen close to seal colonies or inside the channels and fjords in Aysen.

Group formation: Matrifocal groups (size 4-15)
Size: males 6-10m, females 5-8m, calf 2.2m
Weight: males 5-6tons, females 3-4tons, calf 180kg
Age: males 30 (60)yrs, females 50 (80-103)yrs
Sexual maturity: males 15-20 yrs, females 15 yrs
Physical maturity: males 20-25 yrs, females 15 yrs
Gestation: 16-17mths, birth every 3-4 yrs, menopause around 40yrs of age
Diet: Marine mammals, some fish
Distribution: Toothed whale, largest dolphin, distributed all over the world.
Population: min. 50 000
Conservation Status: Data Deficient ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: whaling (Indonesia, Greenland), plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, over fishing

Sei whale

Balaenoptera borealis

Chile: seen along the coast of Chile (feeding grounds in Aysen), not well known

Group formation: Solitary (mother-calf pair, small groups 2-5)
Size: males 17 m, females 19.5 m, calf 4.5 m
Weight: 45 t, calf 1 t
Spout: 3-4 m, “bushy”
Age: 50-70 yrs
Sexual maturity: unknown ca 6-12 yrs
Gestation: 10-13 mths, with 2-3 yrs in between
Weaning: 6-9 months
Diet: small schooling fish, krill, copepods, and zooplankton
Distribution: Worldwide in all oceans, but rarely in polar or tropical waters
Population size: unknown
Conservation Status: Endangered A1ad ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: Vessel collisions, chemical and plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, over fishing

Chilean dolphin

Cephalorhynchus eutropia

Chile: common in the fjords and channels of Aysen, groups of 8-20, not very social, often seen with Chilean dolphins and with Commerson’s dolphins

Group formation: Social groups 10-30
Size: 1.7 m, calf 1 m
Weight: 63 kg, calf unknown
Age: unknown
Sexual maturity: 5-9 yrs
Gestation: unknown
Weaning: unknown
Diet: small schooling fish, such as sardines (Strangomera bentincki), squid (Loligo gahi), and crustaceans (e.g. Munida subrugosa)
Predators: sharks, killer whales
Distribution: endemic to cold, shallow, coastal waters, estuaries, and channels around Chile from 33° S to the tip of South America to the Strait of Magellan and channels of Tierra del Fuego
Population size: < 5000
Conservation Status: Data Deficient ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: Illegal catches for bait and consumption (Peru, Ecuador, Chile), chemical and plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, over fishing

Peale’s dolphin

Lagenorhynchus australis

Chile: very common in the Gulf of Corcovado, groups of 10-30, very social, often seen with Chilean dolphins

Group formation: Social groups 10-30
Size: 2.1 m, calf 1 m
Weight: 115 kg, calf unknown
Age: unknown
Sexual maturity: unknown
Gestation: 10-12 mths
Weaning: ca. 2 yrs
Diet: identified prey – Pleoticus muelleri (Argentine shrimp), squid (Loligo gahiand Illex argentinus), Kingklip fish (Genypterus blacodes), Argentine hake (Merluccius hubbsi), southern cod (Salilota australis), hagfish (Myxine australis), Pantagonian grenadier (Marcuronus magellanicus), red octopus (Enteroctopus megalocyathus), other species of herring, makarel, capelin, anchovies, crustaceans and whelks (gastropods)
Predators: sharks, killer whales
Distribution: endemic to the coastal waters around southern South America, from 38- 44° S to 60° S
Chile: very common in the Gulf of Corcovado, groups of 10-30, very social, often seen with Chilean dolphins
Population size: unknown
Conservation Status: Data Deficient ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: Illegal catches for bait and consumption (Peru, Ecuador, Chile), chemical and plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, over fishing

Commerson’s dolphin

Cephalorhynchus commersonii

Chile: we have seen them inside the fjords of Aysen with a group of Chilean dolphins (first record of this species in Aysen)

Group formation: Social groups 1-10
Size: 1.5-1.7 m, calf 1 m
Weight: 45-86 kg, calf 5.5 kg
Age: 20 yrs
Sexual maturity: 5-9yrs
Gestation: 12 mths
Weaning: unknown
Diet: opportunistic coastal feeders, mostly mysid shrimp, fish, squid, algae, isopods and other benthic invertebrates
Predators: sharks, killer whales
Distribution: two populations, one in Argentina / in the Strait of Magellan / near the Falkland Islands and a second lives near the Kerguelen Islands
Population size: unknown
Conservation Status: Data Deficient ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: Illegal catches for bait and consumption (Peru, Ecuador, Chile), chemical and plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, over fishing, captivity

Common Bottlenose dolphin

Tursiops truncatus

Chile: very common in the Gulf of Corcovado, groups of > 100, very social and active

Group formation: Social fission fusion groups 10-30 (sometimes up to 100, mix with other dolphins)
Size: 2-4 m, calf 1.3 m
Weight: 200-600 kg, calf 9-21 kg
Age: 40-50 yrs
Sexual maturity: varies with populations 5-14 yrs
Gestation: 12 mths, 4-6 yrs in between
Weaning: 2.5-3 yrs
Diet: mostly fish, invertebrates, squids
Predators: sharks, killer whales, false killer whales, pygmy killer whales, short-finned pilot whales
Distribution: worldwide distribution ranging 45° N to 45° S, in temperate and tropical waters
Chile: very common in the Gulf of Corcovado, groups of > 100, very social and active
Population size: 600.000
Conservation Status: Least Concern ver 3.1, Pop. trend: unknown
Threats: Whaling (Faeroe Islands, Japan, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka), chemical and plastic pollution, man-made noise impacts (seismic surveys, military sonar), entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, over fishing, captivity

South American sea lion

Otaria flavescens

Chile: there are many colonies inside the fjords of Aysen and are a common sight, there are conflicts with salmon farms

Group formation: Gregarious 10->100, male territories during breeding
Size: males 2.7 m, females 2 m, calf 75-85 cm
Weight: males 350 kg, females 150 kg, calf 11-15 kg
Age: 20 yrs
Sexual maturity: males 6 yrs, females 4 yrs
Gestation: 12 mths
Weaning: 12 mths
Diet: variety of fish species, including Argentine hake and anchovies, cephalopods, such as shortfin squid, Patagonian squid, and octopus, can prey on penguins, pelicans, and young South American fur seals predators: sharks, killer whales
Distribution: along the coast of South America, in Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); Peru; Uruguay
Population size: 250 000
Conservation Status: Least Concern ver 3.1, Pop. trend: stable
Threats: Illegal catches (especially around aquaculture), habitat degradation, chemical and plastic pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, over fishing, captivity

South American fur seal 

Arctocephalus australis

Chile: there are many colonies inside the fjords of Aysen and are a common sight, there are conflicts with salmon farms

Group formation: Gregarious 10->100, male territories during breeding, females stay on rookeries
Size: males 2 m, females 1.5 m, calf 60-65 cm
Weight: males 200 kg, females 30-60 kg, calf 3.5-5.5 kg
Age: males 15-20 yrs, females 25-30 yrs
Sexual maturity: males 7 yrs, females 3 yrs
Gestation: 12 mths
Weaning: 7 mths to 3yrs dep. on environment
Diet: forage at night for anchovies, sardines, mackerel, cephalopods, crustaceans, bivalve mollusks, and gastropods.
Predators: sharks, killer whales, sea lions
Distribution: along the coast of South America, in Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); Peru; Uruguay
Population size: 250 000
Conservation Status: Least Concern ver 3.1, Pop. trend: increasing
Threats: Illegal catches (especially around aquaculture), habitat degradation, chemical and plastic pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, over fishing

Marine otter

Lontra felina

Chile: they can be found inside the fjords of Aysen

Group formation: Solitary or pair with pups (2-4), monogamous, take care of young together, outside breeding season solitary
Size: 83-113 cm (plus 30-36 cm of tail), pup unknown
Weight: 3-5.8 kg, pup unknown
Age: unknown
Sexual maturity: unknown
Gestation: 60-70 days
Weaning: 10 mths
Diet: crab, shrimp, mollusks, and variety of fish
Distribution: littoral areas of southwestern South America, close to shore and intertidal areas of northern Peru – coast of Chile, and the extreme southern reaches of Argentina
Population size: < 1000
Conservation Status: Endangered A3cd ver 3.1, Pop. trend: decreasing
Threats: Illegal hunts, habitat degradation, chemical and plastic pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, bycatch, over fishing

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