Friend Or Foe: Are Minke Whales Dangerous?

are minke whales dangerous

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Minke whales, like all rorquals, are gentle, serene creatures that exhibit a great deal of curiosity towards humans and have never displayed aggressive behavior when in the presence of divers, swimmers, and snorkelers. 

Although this is the smallest of the baleen whales, the minke whale can reach lengths of 9 m / 30 feet and a colossal weight of over 9 tons.

Taking this into account it’s important to ask: Are minke whales dangerous?

Easily put, NO, minke whales are NOT dangerous to humans and there is no record of a person ever being attacked or hurt by a minke whale.

However, due to their large size, it’s important to understand that you and I are incredibly fragile next to one of these majestic cetaceans.

Today I will tell you if minke whales are in fact dangerous, friendly, safe, and more so let’s dive right in and learn more about the smallest rorqual there is. 

Are Minke Whales Actually Dangerous?

As I stated before minke whales are not dangerous as they have never even attempted to hurt a human being. 

There are actually tour operators, especially in Australia, that have been offering “swim with minke whales” experiences for years and haven’t had any issues with this particular species. 

Nevertheless, if one of these marine mammals was ever to respond aggressively the consequences to the people involved would be catastrophic due to their sheer size so it’s of vital importance to always behave respectfully when in the presence of these majestic creatures.

minke whale
Image: Tom Benson via Flickr

Even if a minke whale didn’t mean to cause harm to a person caution must always be exercised around them as I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the consequences of a 9-ton animal falling on top of you if you happened to be too close to a breaching minke whale.

These animals, no matter how magnificent, are still wild animals and as such will display territoriality and aggression toward each other during moments such as mating and calving so it’s very important to always keep this in mind and know when it might be best to observe from a distance.

Are Minke Whales Friendly?

Yes, minke whales have historically shown friendly and curious behavior toward people.

In fact, tours offering encounters with these cetaceans are very popular because of how close minke whales tend to get to the people in the water, sometimes swimming only 1 m / 3 feet away!

Not only do these marine mammals get exceptionally close, but they are also known for staying with swimmers for long periods of time sometimes even chasing boats to different diving spots and seeking interaction with divers and snorkelers.  

Are Minke Whales Safe To Be Around?

Considering that there have been zero reports of a minke whale ever even attempting to attack a person I will dare say that it is pretty safe to be around these truly gentle giants.

However, as with any other wild animal, safety guidelines and rules must be followed to ensure the well-being and enjoyment of everyone involved in this one-of-a-kind experience. 

Every country has very specific rules set in place that dictate how to interact with whales and choosing to ignore them can result in you, or the whale, getting hurt. 

For example, In Australia, which is perhaps the most popular country to swim with these rorquals, it’s illegal to touch or attempt to touch a minke whale.

Doing so puts you and the whale at a higher risk for disease but you could also be fined a hefty sum of money if you ignore this rule.

I would also recommend that if you will be living the dream and booking a trip to meet these animals face to face you read up on whale behavior and become familiar with some cues that a cetacean might be getting agitated such as jaw popping, rapid swimming or arching its back. 

Basic knowledge of whale etiquette is also a must so that you know that when meeting your new giant friend it’s important that you let it make the first move and approach you instead of the other way around.

Also important to remind you that chasing a whale is always a bad idea!

Are Minke Whales Predators?

Yes! Minke whales are carnivorous predators.

However, they are baleen whales, which means they have no teeth and have an esophagus the size of a softball so unless you are krill sized you are not on a minke whale’s menu. 

While some minke whale populations feed almost exclusively on krill, some will also consume small schooling fish such as anchovies, mackerel, herring, cod, and capeline.

Baleen whales eat via a filter-feeding system by gorging on whole prey along with tons of water.

Once the whale has closed its mouth it will push out the excess water with its tongue while long, hair-like bristles keep the tiny prey inside for swallowing.  

More On The Minke Whale

Minke whales are the most abundant rorqual you will find swimming throughout the world’s oceans and it’s largely thanks to their small size! 

During the industrial whaling era, these magnificent creatures were able to remain safe-ish because their smaller size wasn’t as attractive as a blue whale’s 200 tons for example. 

minke whale underwater
Image: Mattia Valente via Flickr

Also, thanks to their size and more streamlined bodies their speed was no match to whale-hunting ships up until the steamships came into the picture so they weren’t as heavily hunted as their larger cousins.

Their friendly demeanor and curiosity, along with a worldwide coastal distribution have made the minke whale a favorite among whale-watching tours around the world so if you’re looking for an up-close encounter that is sure to be life-changing you can’t really go wrong choosing minke whales.

Final Thoughts

If you ever have the amazing opportunity of being in the presence of such sublime creatures stay calm and don’t be scared as these gentle giants have shown time and time again that they’re just as curious about you as you are about them.

Make sure you are always respectful of their space, consider yourself incredibly lucky, and enjoy every second of this truly amazing experience. 

I hope you have enjoyed learning more about minke whales today and I will see you next time.