The Common Minke (pronouned mink-ee) Whale belongs to a large group of baleen whales known collectively as rorquals. Other members of this group including the Blue Whale, Sei Whale and the Fin Whale. Rorquals are identifiable by the deeply furrowed skin folds which run from the edge of the mouth to the navel. This loose skin allows rorquals to open their mouths wider than other whales, a necessary adaptation for these filter-feeders as they strain huge amounts of water for krill and plankton. The Minke is the smallest of the rorquals, with adults measuring up to 35 feet (10 m) and weighing approximately 20,000 pounds (9,200 kg). Although their appearance may change based on geographical location, in general these whales have sleek-shaped bodies with a black back, a pale belly and a small dorsal fin.
This marine mammal is alternately known as the Northern Minke Whale. There is also one known subspecies called the Antarctic Minke Whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis). The Dwarf Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) may be a third subspecies, but this has not been definitively verified.
The whale has a wide range with populations in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They prefer colder water and are more likely spotted at higher latitudes. Most will migrate seasonally between latitudes, although the Common Minke Whales living in Oregon waters are considered “residents” and do not migrate.
The populations of Common Minke Whale in U.S. waters are considered stable, although other populations around the world are not faring as well. Like most large whales, the Minke was hunted starting in the 1930s until international agreements put an end to most of these practices. Greenland, Japan and Norway still hunt these whales for food and raw resources.
The whale is protected by U.S. law but climate change, marine debris, habitat destruction and noise pollution caused on sonar continue to threaten their survival.