Two populations of the humpback whale would still have the endangered species status, but most humpback whales may no longer be endangered.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Monday proposed the removal from the endangered species list of more than two-thirds of the Earth’s humpback whales population.
Humpback whales were first considered as in need of protection from hunting under the Endangered Species Act back in 1970. The NOAA’s project would take out 10 of the 14 recognized whale populations away from the endangered species list, while two species would be still listed as endangered, while the remaining two would be labeled as threatened.
“The return of the iconic humpback whale is an ESA success story. As we learn more about the species—and realize the populations are largely independent of each other—managing them separately allows us to focus protection on the animals that need it the most,” Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in the NOAA statement.
The last time the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration removed a species from the endangered list after its population recovered was in 1994, when the ecologist body took out from the list a population of gray whales. Even if the whales are removed from the list, all the humpback species would still be protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.
There are only a few zones in the world that still permit hunting of humpback whales. Those places are meant for aboriginal subsistence only, said the International Whaling Commission. Three nations, Norway, Japan, and Iceland, still permit the killing of marine animals for scientific research.
Humans used to hunt the whales in large numbers before their labeling as endangered. Humpbacks were considered endangered in 1970, only four years after the International Whaling Commission prohibited commercial humpback whaling. The same commission stopped all forms commercial whaling in 1986.
Humpbacks are living all around the world, and scientists say restoration and protection efforts have greatly increased their numbers in many waters. Among those which are recommended for dropping from the list is the population that migrates each year from Alaska to Hawaii.
The ruling on which whale groups to propose for removal from the list were based on many factors, among them the risks they face, NOAA experts said. The largest threat to humpbacks is fishing that can result in the whales becoming trapped in fishing gear and then drown.
Image Source: One Green Planet