Most Humpback Whales Taken Off Endangered Species List

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Federal authorities are taking most humpback whales off the endangered species list.

Two regulations were filed Tuesday specifying distance limits for boat approaching humpback whales near Hawaii and Alaska, the agency said.

The global 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 U.S. government announced Tuesday that it has removed most humpback whales from the federal endangered species list, saying that they have fully recovered in the last 46 years.

The Latest on most humpback whales being taken off the Endangered Species List (all times local): 12 p.m. Humpback whales that frequent California, the Pacific Northwest, Mexico and Central America will continue to receive Endangered Species Act protections.

The move marks "a true ecological success story", said Eileen Sobeck, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assistant administrator for fisheries in Silver Spring, Maryland, in a 6 September statement.

The agency recognized 14 distinct humpback whale populations in the world.

Philip Fernandez of the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition says his group petitioned for the delisting three years ago after noticing the whales were abundant around Hawaii. The decision downlists the Mexico population (that feeds off California, Oregon and Alaska) to threatened, although the Fisheries Service says current protections will be kept in place because of the increasing number of West Coast whale entanglements. In addition, they note, an worldwide ban on commercial whaling remains in place.

Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said Monterey Bay has emerged as an entanglement hot spot.

The Western North Pacific group can be found in the Bering Sea and near the Aleutian Islands and will remain on the endangered list.

Pillar Point fisherman Jim Anderson is a member of a state-sponsored working group studying possible modifications to fishing practices. "Separately managing humpback whale populations that are largely independent of each other allows us to tailor conservation approaches for each population".

Numbers of the marine mammal in Central America are still at an alarmingly low level, with only 411 individual whales left in the wild. Commercial whaling was banned internationally nearly 50 years back, since then the population of these species started to increase steadily. They are being taken off the list.

"All humpback whales remain protected in US waters and on the high seas under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, regardless of their ESA status", NOAA said in a statement. While it continues to protect some populations, it removes endangered species protections for the Hawaii population that migrates to Alaska and the West Indies population that feeds off the U.S. East Coast.

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