Minke Whale

Page - January 9, 2009

EstimatedPopulation: N/A . threatened (IUCN Red List)

Ways to identify this species:
black to dark grey on top, white on the underside, long slender body with a narrow, triangular jaw.


There are two species of minke whales: the minke whale, aka common or northern minke whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata (acutorostrata means 'sharp snouted') and the Antarctic or southern minke whale, Balaenoptera bonaerensis.

Minkes are the smallest of the baleen whales. They grow to be about 7.8-9 m long, weighing about 5,400-6,800 kg. Females are about 0.6m longer than males, as with all baleen whales.

Minkes are known for their curiosity and sometimes like to swim beside ships. They can keep up because they are fast swimmers and can reach speeds of 21 mph.

Minke whales feed mainly on krill small schooling fish. They have the same diet as blue whales.

In the feeding grounds of the Antarctic, minkes inhabit the pack ice, large blocks of ice on the surface of the ocean. 

Minkes often travel by themselves but sometimes can be found in pairs or small groups.


Minke whales are the most widely hunted species in our oceans and continue to be threatened by continued commercial and/or "scientific" whaling by Iceland, Norway and Japan.

Pollution and climate change pose a threat to their habitat. Scientists think that a sharp contraction in sea ice in the Antarctic due to global warming is the likeliest explanation for the recent decrease in the population of minke whales there.