Policy News

NOAA Proposes Removing Humpback Whale from Endangered Status

Forty-five years after humpback whales were first listed, federal scientists say that most humpback populations – including those common in Alaska – are stable and growing. As a result, NOAA proposes revising the species’ listing status.

NOAA announced the proposed rule after a five-year review of humpback research worldwide. The agency proposes to divide the globally listed endangered species into 14 distinct population segments (DPSs), remove the current species-level listing, and in its place list 2 DPSs as endangered and 2 DPSs as threatened. The remaining 10 DPSs are not proposed for listing based on their current statuses. This proposal also constitutes a negative 12-month finding on a petition to delineate and “delist” a DPS of humpback whales spanning the entire North Pacific and a positive 12-month finding on a petition to delineate and “delist” a DPS in the Central North Pacific (Hawaii breeding population).

At this time, the agency does not propose to designate critical habitat for the two listed DPSs that occur in U.S. waters (Western North Pacific, Central America) because it is not currently determinable. In order to complete the critical habitat designation process, NOAA also solicits information on essential physical and biological features of the habitat of these two DPS.

NOAA says that most protections will remain in place. Whales in U.S. waters will still be protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, while outside the US, the International Whaling Commission maintains a ban on commercial whaling.

Comments must be submitted to NMFS by 20 July 2015.

For more information, including how to comment and the specific dates of the public hearings, click here.

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