North Atlantic common minke whales have been divided into three management stocks by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) (Donovan 1991): the Northeast Atlantic, including the Barents, Norwegian and North seas; the Central Atlantic, including waters around Jan Mayen, Iceland and East Greenland; and the Western Atlantic, including West Greenland and the Canadian East Coast. These were previously divided into smaller sub-stock areas, however, the original stock and sub-stock divisions were not based on extensive biological information. Recent examination of mainly genetic data has failed to provide clear evidence of stock structure amongst common minke whales in the North Atlantic. Although the NAMMCO Scientific Committee agreed that there is likely only one stock in the North Atlantic, they have agreed to use 3 management areas: West, Central, and East.
Management stocks for North Atlantic minke whales as determined by the IWC. The previously used "small areas" are shown in italics.
The migratory pattern of the North Atlantic common minke whale—wintering in the tropics and summering at high latitudes—is similar to that of other baleen whales in the northern and southern hemispheres. Consequently there is usually no overlap in the distributions of northern and southern hemisphere populations. Therefore it was surprising to find that Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaaerensis), a species distinct from the common minke whale, do occasionally find their way into the North Atlantic. Glover et al. (2010) used DNA profiles from minke whales taken in the Norwegian hunt to find that a single Antarctic minke whale was taken in 1996, and a hybrid between the two species in 2007. While such occurrences are probably quite rare, it does show that the hemispheric populations of whales are not as isolated from one another as was once assumed.
Distribution of common minke whales in all NASS, as well as 2007 CODA and SNESSA surveys.