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Common minke whale
(Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

The Minke Whale has a small and sleek body and is the smallest of the rorqual Whales. The body is black or dark grey above with a white underbelly, often with grey streaks crossing the back behind the head.

The animals usually encountered alone or in small groups. Occasionally they can also be seen in larger groups up to 400 animals in designated feeding areas.

After the decimation of populations of larger Whales (Blue, Fin and Right Whales), whalers started targeting Minke Whales, with their populations only gradually recovering. 

General information

Further names: Portuguese: Baleia-anã; English: Little finner

Size of adults: Females 7 – 10 m; Males about 0,5 m smaller than females.

Life Span: Unclear, studies estimate up to 50 years

Prey: Krill and other planktonic crustaceans, schooling fish.

Behaviour: They are notoriously curious and often approach boats. Spy-hopping and breaching can often be observed during a sighting. Dive time usually ranges from 3-9 minutes but can also be extended to a maximum of 30 min. 

Range: Minke Whales are among the most widely distributed of all the baleen whales. They occur in North Pacific and Northern Atlantic from tropical to polar waters. Like  most other rorquals they remain in warmer waters during the winter and migrate to higher latitudes in summer. Can be observed in coastal areas but tend to prefer the open ocean.

Madeira: Rarely sighted

Distinctive features: white band across the flippers; one longitudinal ridge on top of rostrum; does not raise flukes when diving; blow rarely visible; falcate dorsal fin is shown at same time with blowhole when animal is surfacing.

Taxonomy: Suborder: Mysticeti (Baleen whales); Family: Balaenopteridae (Rorquals). Currently two subspecies of the Common Minke Whale have been described: North Atlantic Minke (B. acutorostrata) and the North Pacific Minke (B. a.scammoni). The Antarctic Minke Whale is considered as a separate species. 

Threats: Species is still heavily exploited in Norway and Japan in commercial whaling. Listed as endangered by the IUCN.