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Big Win for Animal Conservation: Most Humpback Whales Taken Off From US Endangered Species List

Sep 07, 2016 05:45 AM EDT

The international efforts of animal conservationists have once again paid off as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announces the removal of most of the distinct populations of humpback whales from the federal list of endangered species.

The removal of the nine of the 14 distinct population from the endangered lists was done after the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), an office of NOAA, observed a significant recovery in the humpback whale population in those regions. However, four of the distinct population of humpback whales, including Central America, remained in the endangered lists, while the population in Mexico was downgraded to "threatened".

"Today's news is a true ecological success story," said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries in a report from The Guardian. "Whales, including the humpback, serve an important role in our marine environment."

Despite being remove from the endangered lists, NOAA noted that the populations will still remain under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

According to the report from Mercury News, commercial whaling was internationally banned in 1966. In the U.S., the ban on whale hunting was strengthened by the Endangered Species Act signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission imposed a whaling moratorium.

Since then, the global population of humpback whales experienced a tremendous recovery. It has bounced back from as few as 5,000 to around 85,000 today. At present, illegal commercial whaling is very few, if not completely gone.

However, there are still two major threats in the life of whales. These are ship collisions and entanglements. The Canadian and the U.S. government agreed to slow ships and move the shipping lanes out of the migratory path of whales to prevent them from colliding with ships. Entanglements now remain the biggest threat of whales in America. NOAA received about 63 reports of whale entanglements off the coast of California, Washington and Oregon last year.

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