We estimated the potential intrinsic rate of increase (r) of the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) population in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine using empirical data on reproductive rates (mx) and several hypothetical survival (Ix) schedules. Schedules of Ix, to maximum ages of 12 and 15 yr, were calculated from two potential natural mortality (nx) schedules combined with several schedules of incidental mortality (hx) estimates. The most realistic results were obtained when nx of non-calves were calculated from Caugley’s (1966. Ecology 47: 906–918) smoothed age-frequency equation for Himalayan thar (Hemitragus jemlahicus) and applied in conjunction with a range of calf natural mortality estimates, this model indicates that harbour porpoises have a limited capacity for population increase, and populations are unlikely to sustain even moderate levels of incidental mortality (4% of the population per year). Extending the maximum age used in the models from 12 to 15 yr does little to increase estimates of r for the harbour porpoise population, and hence their susceptibility to incidental mortality.