Common (Northern) Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)
Its back is bluish black and the belly white. Up to the middle of its pectoral fin, there is a characteristic transverse white band. Its head is pointed, and it has a medium-sized dorsal fin. It has some ventral streaks that do not reach the navel. Its baleen is 30 cm long and yellowish white. These are the smallest rorquals. They can reach 11 m in length and weigh 15,000 kg. Females are larger than males.
They spread all over the planet, in all kinds of waters, although they are more abundant in high latitudes of both hemispheres. They can migrate from north to south during winter or be sedentary. They can be found in deep sea but also close to the coast.
How They Live
The common minke whale usually lives alone, although they have been seen in pairs or, rarely, in groups. However, there can be thousands of them in the regions where they go for food. They feed off crustaceans, such as krill, gastropods, and small fish which they can filter thanks to their baleen. They often enter estuaries, inlets and bays, although they can also be found in deep waters. They are not especially fast, but they can swim rather fast, like 30 km/h, and dive for 20 minutes. Exceptionally, they can be seen as they jump out of the water.
The same as in the case of fin whales, a lot of it is unknown about their reproduction. The most probable is that the female gives birth to one young every two years. These rorquals become sexually mature when they turn six or seven. The common or northern minke whale goes to the areas for reproduction or giving births in winter in order to bring up their young in milder surroundings. The pregnancy takes between 10 and 11 months. After they are born, which is normally in winter, the young are round 2.8 m long and weigh round 400 kg. Baby whales breastfeed for four months. Once they stop, they continue being with their mothers almost until they are two years old.
Threats and Conservation Measures in Andalusia
Unfortunately, these beautiful animals are victims of whaling in spite of the international commercial whaling moratorium set by the International Whaling Commission in 1982. Japan and Norway remain the countries which still allow hunting rorquals. Other threats for these whales is related to overfishing of those species they live on, polluted oceans, their accidental capture in fishing nets, as well as the accidents with ships. This species is among CITES-listed animals in Appendix I, which means it can become an endangered species if international commercial whaling does not get regulated.
Places Where They Can Be Seen
These species can hardly be seen. This can happen from the vessels, far away from the coast. In Málaga, there are few registered cases of stranded common minke whales, and they have been spotted on few occasions.
This species is rather shy but also very curious. This is why it is not rare to see it approaching ships and docks, although it keeps distance and runs away if it smells danger.
The only species that this whale can be confused with in these surroundings is the fin whale, though it is easy to make a difference between them as the latter one has a white spot on the pectoral fins and because, except from their young, the fin whale is larger (round 11 m long).