Minke Whale or lesser Rorqual

Minke whales are the second smallest baleen whale and are commonly found off of the British Columbia coastline. 

  • Length; 8 metres, 
  • Weight; 4-5 tons,
  • Life span; 30-50 years. 
  • Gestation period: 10 months


The two species of minke whale are the common (or northern) minke whale and the Antarctic (or southern) minke whale.

The minke whale is a black/gray/ with a purple shine color. Common minke whales (Northern Hemisphere variety) are distinguished from other whales by a white band on each flipper. The body is usually black or dark-gray above and white underneath. Minke whales have between 240 and 360 baleen plates on each side of their mouth. Most of the length of the back, including dorsal fin and blowholes, appears at once when the whale surfaces to breathe.


Current status & treats: 

NOT AT RISK, no population estimate. Naturally small population.

Whaling- never really targeted. Entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are still a threat.

We don’t understand the population structure of minke whales and it is unknown how far the population ranges.



Killer whale predation on minke whales has been well documented. A study in 1975 found that in 49 killer whale stomachs, 84% had consumed minke whale. Minke whale carcasses investigated after attacks show that killer whales have an affinity for minke tongues and lower jaw. The anti-predatory mechanism of the minke whale is strictly a flight response. Chases most commonly lead into open ocean, although there have been records of minke whales inadvertently swimming into confined, shallow waters. There have been two recorded instances of minke whales ending high speed chases by hiding under a ship’s hull, however, both instances where unsuccessful. Minke whales will sometimes swim with resident killer whales, they can differentiate from mammal eating whales.

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