Minke Whale - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Minke Whale

Minke Whale

Photo Credit: Tony Jenkinson
Photo Credit: Tony Jenkinson

Fact Sheet

Common name: Minke Whale

Scientific Name: Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Length as an adult: about 35 ft. (10.668 m.)

Weight as an adult: up to 20,000 lbs. (9071.85 kg.)

Length and weight at birth: About 10 ft. (3 m) long and 1000 lbs. (453.592 kg.)

Time Spent Nursing: Approximately 6 months

Range: Can be found almost anywhere above the equator, and in every ocean. Generally, they are found in colder waters and not as commonly found in tropical waters. Other species of minke whales are found anywhere below the equator as well. They are very much a global species.

Likelihood of being seen on a whale watch in Massachusetts coastal waters: Very

Preferred food: Primarily krill, but they will also eat copepods in certain areas.

Unusual characteristics: Tallest dorsal fin, relative to its body size, of any baleen whale.

Appearance: The appearance of the minke whale varies depending on location. Generally, the minke is gray on the top and white on the bottom. The dorsal fin is flat, tall, and curved. Its flippers are slim and pointed at the tips. Its body is slender and streamlined. The head is triangularly shaped and the skin is relatively unscarred compared to many other species.

General Information: It is the smallest of the rorqual whales (baleen whales with dozens of throat pleats that expand while feeding). They are generally solitary animals but can be found in small groups of 4 to 6. They can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes. Minke ( Meincke) was an 18th-century Norwegian whaler, infamously known for habitually breaking the rules concerning the sizes of whales that he was allowed to hunt. Soon all the small whales became known as "Minke's whales".

Unusual Habits: They seem to prefer icy waters, and occasionally are entrapped in the ice fields. They are often harder to spot than larger species, due to a smaller spout when they exhale, and they tend to swim below the surface.

Status: Minke whales are the most abundant species of rorqual whales. During the period of industrial whaling they were not as commonly hunted due to their smaller size. Since the late 1960’s and 1970’s they have been hunted by Japan, Russia, and Norway due to the depletion in the larger species that were once hunted. There are an estimated 185,000 minke whales in the Atlantic, and 510,000-1,400,000 in the Southern Hemisphere.

Threats: Include; whaling/hunting, entanglement in fishing nets, and pollution.


  • "Minke Whale (Balaenoptera Acutorostrata) – Office of Protected Resources – NOAA Fisheries." Minke Whale (Balaenoptera Acutorostrata) – Office of Protected Resources – NOAA Fisheries. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.
  • "Minke Whale." American Cetacean Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.
  • Carwardine, Mark. Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995. Print.

Prepared by: Quinton Campbell