The minke whale has perhaps the most complex population structure of any whale, with evidence of considerable segregation by sex, age, and reproductive conditions. Minke whales are distributed in all oceans, but rarely in the tropics. They seem to prefer temperate waters and are found all the way up to the edge of the ice pack in the polar regions. The minke’s movements are poorly known but in some regions they may be found year round.
The minke whale is small, streamlined, with a sharply pointed head that looks v-shaped from above. The narrow pointed flippers have a white strip across each and the dorsal fin is curved, set back on the body. Females are slightly longer than males, averaging twenty-seven feet as adults. Both sexes weight about ten tons full grown.
Very little is known of the minke whale’s complex structure, sexual maturity is at seven or eight years Winter migratory movement to lower latitudes occurs when birth of young and mating takes place. The gestation period is short, ten months, as well as the weaning of four months. Young are ten feet and weigh one thousand pounds at birth. Calving is believed to be every two year. Solitary animals, they are sometimes seen traveling in groups of two to six. It is common to find larger numbers where there is a concentration of food. Segregated by sex and age, females stay close to shore and males are out at sea.
Krill are a major prey of the minke whale’s diet. They will also feed on a variety of small schooling fish, including herring, capelin, pollack, and sand lance.
The depletion of the larger whales, forced the whalers to take the minke, even though it was small to be worthwhile. Commercially hunted by Norway and Japan, minke whales now number over one million. The high number can be related to the abundance of food, which was previously eaten by the other depleted species. The resumption of hunting, fish net entanglements and pollution are the future threats of this species.