Minke whale
(Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Classification and names
Sea mammal; order: Cetacea (whales); suborder: Mysticetti (Baleen whales); family: Balaenopteridae (rorquals)
English: Minke Whale, Little Piked Whale; Pike Whale; Little Finner; Lesser Finback; Pikehead; Sharpheaded Finner; Lesser Rorqual. The ordinary name (Minke Whale) comes from Norwegian 'Minkehval'.
In French/Franšais: petit rorqual
In Spanish/Espa˝ol: Rorcual común
In German/Deutsch: : Zwergwal
In Dutch/Nederlands: Dwergvinvis

Description
The Minke whale is the smallest whale. He has a slender, streamlined body with a small, narrow three-cornered head and pointed flippers in a form of paddles. A single ridge runs along the rostrum in front of the blow holes. There are two blow holes, just like the other whales, and a straight corner of the mouth. The dorsal fin is sickle-shaped and quite long. It is situated at about two thirds of the back. There are 50-70 throat grooves and between 460-720 baleen plates, the longest of which is 30 cm. The front baleen plates are lighter and the back ones are darker.
Colour: dark grey with lighter grey up to white on the underside and the throat. Each paddle-like flipper has usually a bright white band which is by the way not present at the Antarctic subspecies Balaenoptera acutorostrata bonaerensis.
Length: Males up to 9,8 m; females up to 10,7 m; newly born: 2,4 - 2,8 m.
Weight: Adult Minke whales: 8.000 - 13.500 kg; newly born: 350 kg.

Distribution
Minke whales appear in all the oceans in the world but they can be usually found in colder waters. Although this species lives in oceans, it can also come close to the coast.
Migration: this species probably does not migrate when it is not necessary; minke whales follow their food. Some populations are migratory, both southern and northern populations spend “winter” in tropical waters.

Habitat
This species can be found close to the coast as well as far from it, in tropical as well as in polar waters.

Food
Both at the northern and southern hemisphere, krill is their main food. The only difference is that the Minke whales from the north, also eat fish and squid.

Behaviour & Reproduction
Social behaviour: Minke whales live alone or in small groups. Bigger groups appear in places where there is a lot of food.
Sounds: sounds of clicking, growling, pulsing. Example
Mobility: Some Minke whales are curious. They can swim beside a vessel for quite a distance. From time to time they present some of their acrobatic skills. They can stay under water like this for twenty minutes. Their maximum speed is 30 knots.
Specifics: they can spout up to 3 meter high
Maturity: males at the age of 6; females when they are 7.
Reproduction period: pregnancy lasts 10 months
Nursing period: 4-5 months
Life span: almost 60 years.

Threats
All threats come from man. Despite the IWC-treaty from 1986 in which a stop was put to all hunting activities for trade, hunting is still a big wrongdoer. Hunting for scientific aims was still allowed and this was the reason for Japan and Norway to ask permission for it. In spite of this special permission it seems that a big amount of meat coming from the Minke whales is still offered for sale at the market. Only between 1990 and 2000 about 4289 Minke whales ended up at the shore of Japan. Norway caught 3172 Minke whales in the period between 1993 and 2000. The meat of Minke whales which are caught as “incidental catch” (entangled in nets and suffocated) is sold at the market in Japan as well as in Korea.
The other threats to this species are collisions with ships, pollution (both chemical en via noise nuisance) and deterioration of the surrounding due to the development of the coast.

Protection
Protected since 1986.
At the IUCN Minke whales are classified as "Lower Risk": they are not dependent on a protected area but there is a risk that they might became a vulnerable species.
Apart from that they are stated in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and at the EU Habitat Directive, Annex IV.

Numbers
It is estimated that there are still 610.000 - 1.284.000 Minke whales.

Sources & further reading:
www.cetacea.org
www.wdcs.org
http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu (Michigan State University)
http://quin.unep-wcmc.org (info on protection status)
The Magna Illustrated guide to Mammals of Britain and Europe
Commission of the European Communities, “Environment and quality of life”, 1981
M. WŘrtz and N. Repetto, "Walvissen & Dolfijnen"
De Vleet. EcoMare, Texel.