A final rule issued by the federal government has declared humpback whales in nine of 14 newly identified distinct population segments recovered enough to no longer need listing under the Endangered Species Act.
The announcement on Sept. 6 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said international conservation efforts to protect and conserve whales over the past 40 years has proven successful for most populations.
Four distinct population segments are still protected as endangered and one is now listed as threatened.
Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, saluted the event as a true ecological success story. “Whales, including the humpback, serve an important role in our marine environment,” she said. “Separately managing humpback whale populations that are largely independent of each other allows us to tailor conservation approaches for each population.”
Two of the four populations that remain endangered are found in US waters at certain times of the year. The Central America population feeds off the West Coast, while the Western North Pacific population feeds in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The Mexico population, which is listed as threatened, also feeds off the West Coast of the United States and Alaska.
Two separate, complementary regulations fired today maintain protections for whales in waters off Hawaii and Alaska by specifying distance limits for approaching vessels. All humpback whales remain protected in US waters and on the high seas under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, regardless of their status under the Endangered Species Act.