Compilation of knowledge about minke whale
Report no: 2022:01
Knowledge about the common minke whale is limited, and it is difficult to assess its global population size and how the size is developing.
This is the key finding of a scientific summary the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM) has made, commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency.
Much of the knowledge about the common minke whale is based on relatively few observations within a limited part of the geographical distribution range.
“We are lacking data about basic biological features such as migration, reproduction and demography,” explains Eli Knispel Rueness, Chair of the project group.
The common minke whale
The common minke whale is found in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The species is highly migratory and is found in polar, temperate, and tropical waters.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) surveilles the populations, particularly in areas where whaling occurs. In 2018, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessed that the global population of common minke whales was 200,000 mature individuals. It is unknown whether the population is increasing or decreasing.
“The species has been observed moving further north in the North Atlantic, both during summer and winter. This is a development expected to continue due to global warming,” Rueness says.
What impacts the population?
The common minke whale is negatively impacted by collisions with ships, noise, and pollution. It is caught as a bycatch and gets entangled in fishing gear and debris. According to the scientific summary, the long-term consequences of pollution and climate change are unclear.
Historically, whaling has been a major cause of unnatural mortality for the common minke whale. In the 1980s, the International Whaling Commission introduced a moratorium to whaling. The moratorium is supported by nearly all the countries in the world. The common minke whale is listed in Appendix I of the Convention for Trade with Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which means international commercial trade is banned.
Norway has reserved itself against the listing and since 2014 has been the only exporter of common minke whale meat.
The summary has been approved by VKM’s Scientific Panel for Alien Organisms and Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).