Phocoena spinipinnis


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Phocoena spinipinnis
Species Authority: Burmeister, 1865
Common Name(s):
English Burmeister's Porpoise, Black Porpoise
French Marsouin De Burmeister
Spanish Marsopa Espinosa

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2008-07-01
Assessor(s): Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K.A., Karkzmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y. , Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B.
Reviewer(s): Rojas-Bracho, L. & Smith, B.D.
Despite the existence of substantial bycatches and directed takes, the lack of information on abundance and trends precludes an assessment of extinction risk. It is therefore listed as Data Deficient.
1996 Data Deficient

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Burmeister's Porpoises are distributed in shallow, coastal waters of South America, from southern Brazil (about 28°48’S), south to Cape Horn in Tierra del Fuego, and thence north to northern Peru (to about 5°01’S) (Brownell and Clapham 1999). It is unclear whether the distribution is continuous between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The map shows where the species may occur, based on oceanography. The species has not been recorded for all the states within the hypothetical range as shown on the map. States for which confirmed records of the species exist are included in the list of native range states.
Argentina; Brazil; Chile; Peru; Uruguay
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – southwest; Pacific – southeast
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are no estimates of abundance or trends. Burmeister's Porpoises are very difficult to detect in any but calm conditions, which may explain the rarity of field observations (Brownell and Clapham 1999).

Recent genetic studies have indicated that porpoises in Peru form separate subpopulations from those in southern Chile and in Argentina. The possibility of multiple subpopulations in Peruvian waters is also considered likely (Rosa et al. 2005). Some evidence suggests that the Burmeister’s Porpoises in the Pacific and Atlantic belong to separate subpopulations (Corcuera et al. 1995).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This is essentially a coastal species, which sometimes frequents inshore bays, channels, and fjords of Tierra del Fuego, and is occasionally observed inside the kelp line. It is typically found shoreward of the 60-m isobath, but occasionally has been recorded in up to 1,000 m of water (Brownell and Clapham 1999). There have also been records from more offshore waters, 50 km from the coast of Argentina.

Feeding is on demersal and pelagic fish species, such as anchovies and hake, as well as various squid and shrimps (Goodall et al. 1995).
Systems: Marine

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: It is harvested and used as crab bait in Chile.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): It is widely known that Burmeister's Porpoises are shot or harpooned for use as crab bait in southern Chile. However, because quantitative data are lacking, the extent of this problem is unknown.

The most extensive known takes occur in Peruvian waters, where Burmeister's Porpoise is bycaught primarily in net fisheries, and where it has been used extensively for human consumption. Mortality in Peru was recently estimated as >450 per year and the high mortality is cause for concern (Van Waerebeek et al. 1997, Brownell and Clapham 1999). In southern Chile, porpoises may be killed directly by harpooning (Brownell and Clapham 1999).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is in Appendix II of CITES.

Better documentation of catches and new approaches to dealing with porpoise/gillnet interaction problems are clearly needed, in order to enable an assessment of the effects and suggest mitigation measures in the case of Burmeister's Porpoise.

Bibliography [top]

Brownell Jr., R. L. and Clapham, P. J. 1999. Burmeister's porpoise Phocoena spinipinnis Burmeister, 1865. In: S. H. Ridgway and R. Harrison (eds), Handbook of marine mammals, Vol. 6: The second book of dolphins and the porpoises, pp. 393-410. Academic Press.

Corcuera, J., Monzon, F., Aguilar, A., Borrell, A. and Raga, J. A. 1995. Life history data, organochlorine pollutants and parasites from eight Burmeister's porpoises, Phocoena spinipinnis, caught in northern Argentine waters. Reports of the International Whaling Commission Special Issue 16: 365-372.

Goodall, R. N. P., Wursig, B., Wursig, M., Harris, G. and Norris, K. S. 1995. Sightings of Burmeister's porpoise, Phocoena spinipinnis, off southern South America. Reports of the International Whaling Commission Special Issue 16: 297-316.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.2). Available at: (Accessed: 17 October 2012).

Rosa, S., Milinkovitch, M. C., Van Waerebeek, K., Berck, J., Oporto, J. A., Alfaro-Shigueto, J., Van Bressem, M. F., Goodall, R. and Cassens, I. 2005. Population structure of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA variation among South American Burmeister's porpoiises (Phocoena spinipinnis). Conservation Genetics 6: 431-443.

Van Waerebeek, K., Van Bressem, M. F., Felix, F., Alfaro-Shigueto, J., Garcia-Godos, A., Chavez-Lisambart, L., Onton, K., Montes, D. and Bello, R. 1997. Mortality of Dolphins and Porpoises in Coastal Fisheries off Peru and Southern Ecuador in 1994. Biological Conservation 81: 43-49.

Citation: Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K.A., Karkzmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y. , Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B. 2012. Phocoena spinipinnis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 30 August 2015.
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