Minke Whale

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Identification at a glance

The minke whale is the smallest of the baleen whales, up to 10 metres long, weighing as much as 7 tons.

They have:

  • They are black/gray/purple colour on top, and white underneath.
  • Common minke whales (Northern Hemisphere variety) have a white band on each flipper.
  • Most of the length of the back, including dorsal fin and blowholes, appears at once when the whale surfaces to breathe.
  • Unlike humpback whales, they don’t raise their fluke out of the water to dive, and, because they can stay underwater for up to 20 minutes, can be frustrating to watch!
Sea Trust Wales Whale Tail yellow


There are two populations of Minke whale, one in the northern, one in the southern hemisphere. They each migrate to the poles in spring and the tropics in autumn and winter.

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Minke whales in the northern hemisphere eat krill, sand eels, herring, capelin and sprat, amongst other small fish.

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They breathe 3-5 times in quick succession before diving for between two and twenty minutes. They mostly breed in the summer months, and calves stay with their mothers for five-ten months.

Risso's Dolphin - Sea Trust Wales
Minke Whale
Minke Whale

Fun fact:

The unpleasant smell of the Minke Whale blow has earned them the nickname ‘Stinky Minke’.

Sea Trust Wales Whale Tail yellow


Killer whales regularly hunt and kill minke whales. Other threats include commercial whaling, climate change, water toxicity, food scarcity, and habitat degradation.

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Threat Level

Minke Whales are classified as Of Least Concern, with an estimated population of over 500,000 worldwide.