Federal authorities are taking most humpback whales off the endangered species list, saying they have recovered enough in the last 40 years to warrant being removed.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) said on Monday that nine of the 14 distinct populations of humpbacks would be removed, while four distinct populations remain listed as endangered and one as threatened.
“Today’s news is a true ecological success story,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “Whales, including the humpback, serve an important role in our marine environment.”
Last year the NMFS, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), proposed that humpbacks be split into 14 population segments, allowing for 10 populations to be removed from the endangered list.
It said populations of the animals had steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.
When Noaa made its proposal in April 2015, Regina Asmutis-Silvia, executive director and senior biologist for Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America, noted that the public should be interested in the issue because of the humpback whale’s role in the ecosystem and economy.
“They have an economic value. Internationally, they are probably the No 1 species targeted by whale watching,” she said. “So, there’s a vested interest in making sure that these populations are maintained and healthy.”
Humpback whales that frequent California, the Pacific north-west, Mexico and Central America will continue to receive Endangered Species Act protections.
Marta Nammack, the fisheries service Endangered Species Act listing coordinator, said the Mexico population numbered just 3,200. The Central American population is estimated at only about 400.
In contrast, more than 11,000 humpback whales breed in Hawaii waters. They are being taken off the list.
This article was first published by The Guardian on 06 Sep 2016.
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