Endangered no more? agency proposes lifting status for humpback whales

Hawaii’s federal government on Monday proposed removing most of the world’s humpback whales from the endangered species list, saying the massive mammals have rebounded after 45 years of protection and restoration efforts. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries officials want to reclassify humpbacks into 14 distinct populations, and remove 10 of those from the list. The last time the agency delisted a species due to recovery was more than two decades ago.

Ten of these populations are no longer in danger of extinction, which is our criteria for an endangered listing, nor are they likely to become so in the foreseeable future, our criteria for a threatened status.

Donna Weiting, NOAA’s director for the Office of Protected Resources

Humpbacks were listed as endangered in 1970, four years after the International Whaling Commission banned commercial humpback whaling. The commission put a stop to all commercial whaling in 1986. All the whales remain protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, and the United States is still an active member of the International Whaling Commission, which banned commercial whaling in 1966, said Angela Somma, chief of NOAA Fisheries endangered species division. According to the International Whaling Commission’s website, there are only a few places in the world that still allow hunting of humpback whales, and that is for aboriginal subsistence only.