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Cosmopolitan, but not Everywhere Equally

The minke whales are the smallest and most abundant baleen whale species worldwide. Although found throughout the word’s oceans and seas and from the Polar Regions to  temperate and tropical waters, minke whales are not evenly distributed. Their spatial distribution shows high variability whereas Northern minke whales seem to concentrate in inshore coastal waters and Antarctic minke whales might follow the changing expansion of the Antarctic ice shelf. Their temporal distribution also varies greatly as they are believed to undergo long-distance migrations between summer feeding and winter breeding grounds.


Northern or Common Minke whale

Widespread in temperate to polar waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic.

Antarctic minke whale

Circumpolar and pelagic in South Hemisphere from 65 - 20°S but not as far south in the Pacific oceans. Breeding grounds believed to be 10-30°S.

Dwarf minke whale

Perhaps circumpolar in Southern Oceans to about 60°S but most observation records are from off South Africa, Australia and the Indian Ocean.

The North Atlantic minke whale

The North Atlantic minke whale is separated into four stocks of different size; the northeastern (Scandinavia), the Central (Iceland), the West Greenland and the Canadian East Coast stock (Donovan 1991, IWC 2005a). Minke whales belonging to the Canadian East Coast stock range from unknown breeding grounds in southeastern U.S. waters in the winter to feeding grounds in the north as far up as the polar pack ice and into the St. Lawrence Gulf in summer.

The Minke Whales in the St. Lawrence Estuary

The population size within the St. Lawrence Gulf is not well documented but is believed to consist of a few thousand whales (COSEWIC report 2006). Many of these minke whales migrate westwards to the very end of the baleen whales’ summer distribution some 800 km from the open Atlantic. From May to October,  the Minke whales' population concentrate in the protected waters of the St. Lawrence Estuary. The estuary is therefore (and to the best of our knowledge) one of the very best places worldwide for conducting in-depth and long-term studies on minke whales in order to understand their biology and ecology in greater detail.