Minke Whale


  • Minke Whale
  • Minke Whale jumping
  • Minke Whale
  • Minke Whale
  • Minke Whale (surface feeding)
  • Minke Whale

The minke whale frequents the coastal waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence from March to December, to feed.

In the Estuary, it is particularly present at the head of the Laurentian Channel (between Tadoussac and Les Bergeronnes) and at the mouth of the Saguenay River where it is plentiful from early July to early September.

From the tropics to polar regions, this species is found in all ice-free waters of the world’s oceans.

The minke whale of the Northern Hemisphere is distinct from the dwarf minke whale, which is a sub-species of the Southern Hemisphere.

The Antarctic minke whale is a distinct species with numerous physical and genetic differences.

The minke whale does not appear in the List of threatened or vulnerable species in Quebec.

This species is listed as “not at risk” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

The species is designated “least concern” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s” (IUCN) List .

It is a gulper, feeding on planktonic crustaceans (krill) and small schooling fish (herring, capelin, sand lances).

It specializes in certain types of feeding manoeuvres.

They swim in circular, elliptical or hyperbolic paths to trap their prey while using currents, rock walls and sometimes even the hulls of boats.

Illustrated species: (from high to low, from left to right): herring, krill, capelin.

Mother/calf pairs separate as soon as the latter is weaned.
This bond between the cow and her calf is the shortest of any Mysticeti whale.

The social structure of minke whales is complex due to segregation according to sex, age and reproduction conditions.

In the St. Lawrence Estuary, the majority of minke whales are females.

These animals are rather solitary.

Individuals may pair up for a very brief period (2 to 4 breathing sequences).

The minke whale produces low-frequency sounds.

Its repertoire comprise vocalizations of decreasing frequency.

It might use a series of high pitched clicks.

Minke whales can execute vertical breaches before landing on their belly or back.

Photo credit: GREMM

Spectacular series of several dozen repeated breaches at short intervals are regularly sighted.

Minkes sometimes show a certain curiosity with boats, surfing in the large waves in their wake.

It strongly arches its back before diving again and does not lift its tail out of the water.

Their dives probably do not exceed a depth of one hundred or so metres, as this is the layer where their prey are found.

Dive times are generally short (2 to 3 minutes), but can be in the range of 20 minutes.

In the St. Lawrence, the ORES research team is studying minke whale behaviour and since 1998 has managed a catalogue of some 300 individuals using photo-identification of their dorsal fin (shape and markings) and other distinctive characteristics.

Furthermore, researchers have been interested in knowing if minke whales employ unique feeding strategies in the Saguenay Fjord. Observations made in the Saguenay between 2000 and 2003 have led researchers to believe that minke whales in this area may be learning and transferring feeding strategies among themselves.