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Published on May 6th, 2013 | by Yellow Magpie


Common Minke Whale: The Human-Watching Whales

Common Minke Whale Photo By Rui Prieto Creative Commons ShareAlike License

Common Minke Whales are one of the most curious whales. One of the smaller whales they are found in relatively large numbers in the Northern Hemisphere.

Common Minke Whale Description

In comparison to humans Common Minke Whales are massive. Nevertheless for whales they are relatively tiny. Common Minke whales are among the smallest rorquals second only to the Pygmy Right whale. Even their Southern Hemisphere brethren, the Antarctic Minke Whales, are larger than them.

The Common Minke whale is dark grey in appearance with a white underbelly. They have distinctive white bands on their pectoral fins.

Common Minke Whale Photo By Simon Pierre Barrette Creative Commons ShareAlike License

Diet And Behaviour

Common Minke whales feed on a diverse diet of fish and crustaceans. Like the other baleen whales they do not have teeth. Instead they have hairs called baleen that they use to sieve their prey from the water.

Though they are normally solitary species they can feed in large groups. One of their main feeding methods is to rush up from below forcing their prey near the surface. They dive quite regularly but can hold their breath for up to twenty minutes. Unlike the Humpback whales they do not display their tail fluke while diving.

Common Minke Whale Photo By David Ramm NOAA NMFS SWFSC

Common Minke Whales And Whaling

Several thousand Common Minke whales have been killed due to commercial whaling. Though they were included in a worldwide ban on commercial whaling in 1982 Japan and Norway still hunt them. They are currently thought to number in excess of 250,000 individuals.


Common Minke whales face several man-made threats from noise pollution and commercial whaling to climate change and the accumulation of chemical pollutants in the oceans.

Orcas are also thought to provide a non-human threat.

Common Minke Whale Photo By BS Thurner Hof Creative Commons ShareAlike License


The curious nature of Common Minke whales and their relatively abundant population makes them ideal for whale watching tourism. They have been known to approach people in boats and watch them for periods of up to half an hour. Common Minke whales are very valuable to local economies.

Vital Statistics

  • Common Minke Whales can be over nine metres (30 feet) in length.
  • They can weigh as much as 12 tonnes.
  • Common Minke Whales are found in the oceans of the Northern Hemisphere.
  • They can live up to 50 years.

Recommended Reading

Visit Wikipedia for more information on the Common Minke Whale.

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Whales: Kings Of The Cetaceans, Fin Whale: The Giant Speedster Of The Oceans and Our Love Affair With Our Favourite Cetacean for further insight into Whales and their cetacean cousins.

Among Giants: A Life With Whales is the fascinating story of underwater photographer, Charles ‘Flip’ Nicklin. Full of splendid pictures and insightful commentary about the whales this book is stunning.

You can obtain Among Giants: A Life with Whales here from Amazon.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Among Giants: A Life with Whales from here.
For Canada: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For Germany: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For France: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.

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