NORTHERN MINKE WHALE – Balaenoptera acutorostrata


Northern minke whale facts: The northern minke whale is the smallest rorqual whale, but is still between 26 and 33 feet (8 and 10 meters) long. They are sleek whales with black, brown or gray backs and lighter bellies. They have light stripes across their flippers.

Geographic range: Northern minke whales migrate from tropical waters to the polar oceans in the Northern Hemisphere. There are two separate populations, one in the North Atlantic and one in the North Pacific.

Northern minke whale habitat: Northern minke whales live at the edge of the polar ice fields, and sometimes even enter the fields of ice. They prefer water close to shore, and will enter bays and inlets.

What does northern minke whale eat: Although a large part of their diet is krill and small schooling fish, the northern minke whale feeds on many foods that other rorquals generally avoid, including larger fish such as salmon, cod, and mackerel.

Behavior and reproduction: Northern minke whales are most often seen alone, in pairs, or groups of three. However, there are times when they gather in large groups of up to fifty in rich feeding areas. Female northern minke whales are pregnant for ten months, after which the calves nurse for about six months. Calving usually occurs in the winter. Calves stay with their mothers for about two years, even when they have stopped nursing. These rorquals often live to be sixty years old.

Northern minke whales and people: Meat from this rorqual, as well as many other rorquals, is sought after in Japan and Korea as a special delicacy. Their meat is extremely expensive. Despite the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on hunting, these whales are still taken illegally because of the high price their meat brings.

Conservation status: Northern minke whales, unlike many of their fellow rorquals, are abundant and considered at low risk for extinction.