THREE fin whales were spotted off the coast of Torrevieja, visible from land the migrating mammals sparked excitement amongst nature lovers.
An endangered species – also known as the razorback or the common rorqual – the leviathans are the second largest mammal in the world after the blue whale, they can grow up to 27 metres long and weigh 74 tons.
The species has a distinct ridge running down its back and a distinctive fin towards the tail, giving it two of its names; it is also known as “the greyhound of the sea” because of its long sleek body and swimming speed.
Balaenoptera physalus, to be scientific, has an established Mediterranean population and makes an annual pilgrimage from the Liguria Sea, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and into the Atlantic.
More frequently spotted off the Marina Alta coast, the three whales, the largest was about 18 metres long, its companions both about 15 metres, came as close as 2km off Torrevieja.
It is likely they came inshore following a school of fish – opportunistic gulls were seen landing in the wake of the visitors – and the whales’ diet also includes squid, crustaceans, and krill.
Observers said the visitors headed south and could be watched until they rounded Cap de Palos, travelling together at an estimated 10-12 knots.
Once heavily hunted, the fin whale is now a protected species and the global population is estimated to be between 100,000 and 120,000 and is found in all the major oceans of the world.