Latin name: Balaenoptera Acutorostrata

Minke Whale - Photo: Cetacea

Minke Whale – Photo: Cetacea

The Minke Whale is found from the polar ice-edge to the tropics, and, although mainly an oceanic species, will come quite near to the coast. It does not strictly migrate, but follows its food source.


Lacépède classified this species as Balaenoptera acutorostrata in 1804. A subspecies was identified by Burmeister in 1867 – Balaenoptera acutorostrata bonaerensis, an inhabitant of the Southern Hemisphere that is distinguishable by the absence of a white band on each flipper.

Local Names

Little Piked Whale; Pike Whale; Little Finner; Lesser Finback; Pikehead; Sharpheaded Finner; Lesser Rorqual. The common name is derived from the Norwegian ‘Minkehval’.


The Minke Whale is the smallest of the rorquals, measuring between 8-10m in length and weighing between 8-13.5 tonnes. It is stocky but slender, with a small, narrow triangular head and pointed, paddle-like flippers. The dorsal is relatively tall, and is set about two thirds of the way along the back. The body colour is dark slate grey, with paler grey to white on the undersides and throat, on which there are between 50-70 grooves. Each flipper usually bears a bright white band which is noticably absent in the subsecies, Balaenoptera acutorostrata bonaerensis. There are between 460-720 baleen plates per animal, the longest of which is 30cm in length.

Recognition at Sea

This is an inquistive cetacean, unlike the other rorquals, and will frequently approach and linger around ships. This behaviour and the whale’s small size make it easy to identify. The blow is about 2-3m high and can only be seen in good weather.


This species is found both inshore and offshore, in waters both polar, tropical and temperate.

Food & Feeding

Minke Whales seem to feed very little in warm waters. In both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, the preferred diet is euphausiids, though those in the former will also take shoaling fish and small free-swimming molluscs.


Minke Whales regularly occur either in groups of 2-3 or as individuals, with large congregations amassing on feeding grounds. The whale communicates via grunts, clicks, pulses and breaching.


Approximately 60 years.

Estimated Current Population

610,000 – 1,284,000 animals.

The Influence of Man

This species was never considered commercially or economically worthwhile until the 1970s, until large catches were taken in the Antarctic by Japan and the Former Soviet Union. When the IWC’s Moratorium on Commercial Whaling came into effect in 1986, only catches under scientific permit have been allowed, chiefly by Japan and Norway. However, despite this ‘scientific permit’, the meat from these whales – and many other species – still ends up on many butchers’ slabs.

Geographic Distribution

Minke Whale Habitat

Minke Whale Habitat