The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed removing protections from most populations of humpback whales.
The agency also wants to reclassify the humpback whale into 14 distinct population segments under the Endangered Species Act. Protection and restoration efforts over the past 40 years have led to an increase in numbers and growth rates for humpback whales in many areas, according to NOAA.
Humpback whale species live in oceans around the globe. Currently, this specie is marked as endangered throughout its range of sub-populations. Under NOAA’s proposal, 10 of the 14 populations of the humpback whale will be removed from ESA listing.
In 1970, the United States listed the humpback whales as endangered. The humpback whale population rebounded in many areas.
In addition, the proposal calls for two of the other four populations to be listed as endangered, and the remaining two as threatened.
If the NOAA’s proposal is finalized, the humpback whale populations that would no longer be listed under the ESA would remain protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In 2010, an extensive review of the status of humpback whales was initiated by NOAA. The review’s findings support separating the species into distinct population segments. The review also finds that many of the populations are not in danger of extinction or likely to become so in the foreseeable future, NOAA said in a statement.
“The return of the iconic humpback whale is an ESA success story,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “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.”
The two populations proposed as threatened – the Central America and the Western North Pacific – at times enter U.S. waters. Two other populations that do not enter U.S. waters – in the Arabian Sea and off Cape Verde Islands/Northwest Africa – would remain listed as endangered.
NOAA will open a 90-day public comment period for the proposed rule. The public will be invited to comment on this new proposal.