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Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Minke whale

Min­ke wha­le in Woodfjord.

Descrip­ti­on: The Min­ke wha­le or “Min­kie” is the smal­lest bale­en wha­le, but is still a very impres­si­ve ani­mal, con­si­de­ring its size of about ten metres. It resem­bles other bale­en wha­les in shape and colou­ra­ti­on: slim and stream­li­ned, dark- grey to black back with a pale bel­ly. Next to the rela­tively small size, the dor­sal fin is important for iden­ti­fi­ca­ti­on: It is lar­ge in rela­ti­on to the body, at least in com­pa­ri­son to other wha­les. In shape, it resem­bles a sick­le and is pla­ced to the front of the last third of the body length. The blow is small and does not have any spe­ci­fic shape; the flu­ke (tail fin) remains invi­si­ble when it dives. It does not spend much time at the sur­face, unless fee­ding the­re.

Dis­tri­bu­ti­on / Migra­ti­on: Min­ke wha­les occur in all of the world’s oce­ans, pre­do­mi­nant­ly in high lati­tu­des. The popu­la­ti­on in the north Atlan­tic is thought to be about 100,000 ani­mals, but esti­ma­tes vary bet­ween offi­cial stu­dies in coun­tries that allow wha­ling (Ice­land, Nor­way) and other sci­en­tists from many coun­tries.

Minke whale

Min­ke wha­le in Wij­defjord.

Min­ke wha­les are not very abundant in Spits­ber­gen, but show up regu­lar­ly in fjords, coas­tal and off­shore waters and near the ice edge. Sightin­gs of sin­gle ani­mals are most com­mon, but small herds occur occa­sio­nal­ly. During win­ter, they retre­at to lati­tu­des some­whe­re bet­ween Por­tu­gal and the Car­ri­be­an.

Bio­lo­gy: In the North Atlan­tic, Min­ke wha­les feed on a ran­ge of small fish spe­ci­es as well as plank­ton (in Ant­arc­ti­ca, you would call it krill) which they fil­ter with their bale­en pla­tes. They also take lar­ger fish spe­ci­es, but only to a very sub­or­di­na­te degree; com­pe­ti­ti­on with com­mer­cial fishing is thus not signi­fi­cant. Mating is gene­ral­ly bet­ween Octo­ber and March, depen­ding on the regi­on and popu­la­ti­on. After a pregnan­cy of ten mon­ths, a 2.5 metres long calf is born in the win­te­ring area.

Minke whale

Min­ke wha­le in the open Bar­ents Sea.

Mis­cel­la­ne­ous: Min­ke wha­les show up only for moments, dive again and then show up again at a dif­fe­rent place and are thus dif­fi­cult to obser­ve and to pho­to­graph. Spec­ta­cu­lar obser­va­tions such as curious indi­vi­du­als approa­ching boats and dis­plays of acro­ba­tic beha­viour are rare, but do hap­pen.

Min­ke wha­les have been hun­ted for many cen­tu­ries in the North Atlan­tic. Nor­way still allows its small wha­ling fleet an annu­al quo­ta of more than one thousand ani­mals, alt­hough this is high­ly con­ten­tious even in Nor­way. In 2014, the­re was a Nor­we­gi­an quo­ta of 1286 Min­ke wha­les, of which 595 were caught.

Whaling, Minke whale

Wha­ling: har­pooned Min­ke wha­le. May 2015, Bar­ents Sea.

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last modification: 2019-03-31 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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