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Northern Minke Whale


Scientific name: Balaenoptera acutorostrata. 
Order: Artiodactyla.
Family: Balaenopteridae. 
Genus: Balaenoptera.

IUCN Status

Least concern

Other names

Common minke whale.


Medium sized whales that can grow between 7 meters to 10 meters in length. Minke whales are mostly black with grey colouration on their flanks extending up onto the back, and a white underbelly. They have white bands on their pectoral fins and have a sickle shaped dorsal fin that is set 2/3 of the back to the tail.

Habitat and distribution

It is estimated there about 209,800 minke whales in the ocean. They are often seen inshore and around coastal areas. In the winter they migrate to warmer waters to breed and in the summer, they migrate to colder waters to feed.


Northern minke whales are normally seen in pods of about 2 to 3 but are sometimes sighted alone. They normally surface nose first and sometimes show their pale lower lip. When diving, their tail stock archers but the flukes do not break the surface. Minke whales are often unobtrusive and only seen rolling at the surface. Minke whales can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes.

Confusion with other species

Fin whale: much larger whale and have a stronger blow.
Sei whale: much larger, have a more erect dorsal fin and a distinct blow.
Cuvier's beaked whale: paler and browner skin colour with a pale area on the forehead. 
Northern bottlenose whale: paler skin and have a bulging forehead and are normally seen in pods.


Countries such as Japan, Norway, Greenland and Iceland still hunt Northern minke whales. They are also threatened by pollution from toxic chemicals, plastic pollution, and entanglement in fishing gear.

Interesting facts

Minke whales can swim at speeds of up to 35kph.

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