The Minke Whale

(Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

The Minke whale is the smallest of the rorquals. The male of the species can grow to a length of 9.8m (32ft) and the female larger at 11m (36ft) and weigh 10 tonnes. Populations in the Southern hemisphere on the average are slightly larger than other areas. Some animals are inquisitive and approach quite closely, but in most cases it is unusual to get a clear view. The Minke can be confused with the Sei, Bryde's, Fin or Northern Bottlenose whale, however, the dive sequence is distinctively different, the head is unscarred and it's mouthline is relatively straight.

Minke whale image

The Minke whale has a slender streamlined body with a pointed head and often inconspicuous blow. The body is dark grey to black on the back, lightening to white on the belly and undersides of the flippers. There are often areas of light grey on the flanks, one just above and behind the flippers and the other behind the head. Individuals in the Northern hemisphere have a diagonal white band on the upper surface of each flipper. The head of the whale has an overall triangular shape, a single sharp longitudinal ridge along the top and forward of the blowhole and a narrow pointed snout. It has twin blowholes typical of all baleen whales.

Baleen plates are found on each side of the upper jaw. The plates numbering between 230 to 360 are short 20-30cm (8-12in) in length and about 12cm (5in) in width. The colour of the plates vary from region to region; in the North Atlantic, it tends to be creamy white; in the North Pacific, it is usually creamy yellow; and in the Southern hemisphere it is creamy white at the front and dark grey at the back. Atlantic Minkes usually have more plates than the Pacific Minkes.

Family: Balaenopteridae

Subfamily: Balaenopterinae

Other Names: Lesser Rorqual, Lesser Finback, Little Finner, Sharp-headed Finner, Pike whale, Little Piked whale, Pikehead.

Minke whales can be found virtually worldwide, but are less common in the tropics than in cooler waters. The Minke often enters estuaries, bays and inlets and during summer may feed around headlands and small islands. Most, seasonally migrating from polar feeding grounds to warm temperate to tropical breeding grounds although there appears to be some groups resident year-round. There are three geographically isolated populations recognised, in the North Pacific, in the North Atlantic and in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Minke is the smallest of the seven great whales. It's size made it uneconomical to harvest commercially while the larger whales were in abundance. The species became protected with the declaration of the 'Moratorium' on whaling by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. Norway and Japan are two countries that argue since the Minke is abundant it is not endangered and therefore they are harvesting (killing), albiet in small numbers, this species on a regular basis. Although it's numbers are not endangered it is on the endangered list as a threatened species, and is protected (since 1986) worldwide by international law.

Bibliography Whales on the Net

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