Minke Whales

Scientific Name:  Balaenoptera acutorostrata

When is the best time to view Minke Whales in Monterey Bay and where is the best viewing?

Minke whales (pronounced mink-ey) are found year-round in the Monterey Bay. The most frequent sightings of these whales are during the summer and fall. They are typically found near shore, above rocky ocean floors where their favorite prey, rockfish, are abundant.

Some resident minke whales may be found along southern Monterey Bay and Big Sur shorelines. Minke whales are difficult to spot as they travel alone, surface very briefly and create a small blow spout that is nearly invisible on the ocean’s surface. When minkes are spotted, they are typically breaching, spy hopping or leaping completely out of the water. The best chance of spotting whales is from one of several whale watching boat excursions leaving daily from Fisherman’s Wharf or Moss Landing. 


About Minke Whales

Minke whales are dark gray on top and white below. They have a distinctive narrow, triangular upper jaw and a head that is pointed like a bullet.  Minkes have a tall dorsal fin that is located two-thirds of the way down their back.

 Minke whales are found in all oceans, but prefer arctic waters. Females usually stay close to shore, while males tend to stay in open waters. Minkes feed by side lunging into schools of fish and gulping a large amount of water. Their diet consists of crustaceans, plankton, and small schooling fish.

 Minke whales sexually mature at around 7 or 8 years of age. Breeding mainly takes place in the summer months with gestation lasting 10–11 months. Minke whales mate once every two years on average. When born calves are about 10 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds.


Minke Whale Fun Facts

  • Produce distinct clicking and grunting sounds
  • Smallest of the rorqual family of whales
  • Also known as the little piked whale, sharp-headed finner, little finner, lesser finback, lesser rorqual
  • Capable of reaching speeds of 18–24mph
  • Spend little time at the surface
  • Curious and highly acrobatic

Habitat: open water, sometimes in bays, inlets and estuaries; migrates seasonally between warm and cold waters

Length: average 26-27 feet; up to 35 feet

Weight: average 10 tons; up to 15 tons

Diet: krill, plankton, and small school fish

Lifespan: up to 50 years