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A sightings survey was conducted in the summer of 1991 in the western Mediterranean to describe the distribution of fin whales and to estimate their absolute abundance during the summer feeding season. Fin whales were only found in the Liguro-Provençal basin, in deep waters (mean depth 2,360, S.E.: 46.8 m), beyond the continental shelf. The highest densities of fin whales were found in relatively cool waters (mean = 23.9°C), and water in areas in which fin whales were found was significantly cooler than that in areas without fin whales. Patterns of distribution of whales, with remarkably high densities in the feeding grounds, and composition of schools, which were found to be smaller than in other regions, suggest that food resources for the species in the north-western Mediterranean feeding grounds occur at higher densities but are more patchily distributed than in other fin whale feeding grounds so far studied. Abundance was estimated as 3,583 individuals (S.E.: 967; 95% CI: 2,130-6,027).