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NOAA Says Many Humpback Whale Species No Longer Threatened

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The federal government suggested on Monday withdrawing majority of the humpback whales from the list of endangered species, stating that the huge marine mammals have bounced back following 45 years of restoration and protection measures.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries authorities need to reclassify humpback whales into 14 distinct population segments under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and based on their opinion, 10 of those 14 categories do not warrant ESA listing. The last time the office removed a species from the ESA list because of successful recovery was over two decades ago.

Angela Somma, NOAA Fisheries endangered species division chief, stated that all the humpback whales will stay protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the United States is still one of the active members of the International Whaling Commission, which has banned commercial whaling since 1966.

There are just a couple of locations on the planet that still permit the hunting of humpback whales, says the International Whaling Commission's website, and that is for native subsistence only. Aside from this, three countries, Norway, Iceland, and Japan, still let the creatures be hunted for scientific purposes.

People hunted these whales in great numbers before they were listed as endangered. Humpbacks were recorded as an endangered species in 1970, four years after the International Whaling Commission forbid commercial humpback whaling. All of the commercial whaling activities were put to stop by the commission in 1986.

The humpback whale can be located everywhere in the world, and authorities say restoration and protection efforts have expanded its numbers in numerous territories. Among those suggested for removal from the ESA listing is the humpback whale population that relocates every year from Hawaii to Alaska.

Under the most recent arrangement, two of the humpback whale populations would be listed as threatened, the ones found in the Western North Pacific and Central America. The office said these whales on occasion enter U.S. waters.

There are two whale populations, those in the Arabian Sea and off Cape Verde and also the whales from northwest Africa, that would stay listed under the ESA.

The NOAA has not taken any whale species off the ESA list since the agency delisted the gray whale in 1994. The proposal is open for a 90-day public comment period. The process of delisting the humpback whale from the ESA list will take about 12 months.

Photo: Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith | Flickr

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