Most modern classifications split the minke whale into two species;
Taxonomists further categorize the Common Minke Whale into two or three subspecies; the North Atlantic Minke Whale, the North Pacific Minke Whale and Dwarf Minke Whale. All Minke Whales are part of the rorquals, a family that includes the Humpback Whale, the Fin Whale, the Bryde's Whale, the Sei Whale and the Blue Whale.
The junior synonyms for B. acutorostrata are B. davidsoni Cope 1872, B. minimia (Rapp, 1837) and B. rostrata (Fabricius, 1780). There is one synonym for B. bonaerensis - B. huttoni Gray 1874.
Writing in his 1998 classification, Rice recognised two of the subspecies of the Common Minke Whale - B. a. scammoni (Scammon's Minke Whale) and a further (taxonomically) unnamed subspecies found in the southern hemisphere to which he gave the common name the Dwarf Minke Whale (first described by Best, 1986).
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-grey above and white underneath. Most of the length of the back, including dorsal fin and blowholes, appears at once when the whale surfaces to breathe. The whale then breathes 3-5 times at short intervals before 'deep-diving' for 2-20 minutes. Deep dives are preceded by a pronounced arching of the back. The maximum swimming speed of minkes has been estimated at 20-30 km/h. Minke whales have between 240 and 360 baleen plates on each side of their mouths. Sexual maturity is reached at 7 or 8 years. Breeding peaks during the summer months. The gestation is 10 to 11 months and calving is thought to occur every two years. Minke whales typically live for 30-50 years; in some cases they may live for up to 60 years.
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Note that whale calls have been sped up to 10x their original speed.
The dwarf minke whale (B. acutorostrata subspecies) has no population estimate, and its conservation status is categorised as "data deficient".
Whaling was mentioned in Norwegian written sources as early as the year 800 and hunting Minke Whales with harpoons was common in the 11th century. In the nineteenth century they were considered too small to chase, and received their name from a young Norwegian whale-spotter in the crew of Svend Foyn (died 1894) who harpoooned one mistaking it for a Blue Whale and was derided for it.
By the end of the 1930s they were the target of coastal whaling from countries including Brazil, Canada, China, Greenland, Japan, Korea, Norway, and South Africa. Minke Whales were not then regularly hunted by the large-scale whaling operations in the Southern Ocean on account of their relatively small size. However, by the early 1970s, following the over-hunting of larger whales such as the Sei, Fin, and Blue Whales, Minkes attracted the attention of these whalers too. By 1979 the Minke was the only whale caught by Southern Ocean fleets. Hunting continued apace until the general moratorium on whaling was introduced in 1986.
Following the moratorium, most hunting of Minke Whales ceased. Japan and more recently Iceland (in August 2003) have continued hunting for Minkes on scientific grounds, however, these "scientific grounds" are criticised by many environmental organisations as being a cover for commercial whaling. Both Iceland and Japan have the long term goal of resuming open commercial whaling. Although Norway initially followed the moratorium, they placed an objection to it with the IWC and resumed a commercial hunt in 1993. Norwegian whalers caught 639 in 2005. The quota for 2006 was set at 1052 animals, from which a catch of 546 was taken. The 2006 catch by Japanese whalers included 505 Antarctic Minke Whales. A 2007 analysis of DNA fingerprinting of whale meat estimated that South Korean fishermen caught 827 minke between 1999 and 2003. Japan plans to hunt 850 (plus/minus 10%) Antarctic minke whales in 2008.
In the northern Great Barrier Reef (Australia), a swim-with-whales tourism industry has developed based on the seasonal migration of dwarf minke whales during the months of June and July. A limited number of Reef tourism operators (based in Port Douglas and Cairns) have been granted permits by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to conduct these swims, under the conditions that a Code of Practice is strictly adhered to, and that operators report details of all sightings as part of a monitoring program. Scientists from James Cook University and the Museum of Tropical Queensland have worked closely with participating tourism operators and the Marine Park Authority, researching potential impacts from tourism interactions on the whales and implementing management protocols to ensure that these interactions are ecologically sustainable.
Population Size and Site Fidelity of North Atlantic Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata acutorostrata) off the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, Canada
Oct 01, 2011; Abstract The site fidelity of North Atlantic minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata acutorostrata) off the coast of Halifax,...