Delisting Humpbacks is a Step Back We Cannot Afford to Take

Killer whales have gotten a lot of attention lately, but they’re not the only ones in need of help. In Alaska, humpback whales could soon lose their federal protection status. While their endangered protection status could soon be lost, the threats to humpback whales are still very present. In July, the way that this tide turns could mean survival or extinction for the north Pacific humpback whales, and your voice counts now.

Endangered History of Humpback Whales

According to IWC, from the 1920s to 1950s, humpback whales were heavily exploited. Commercial whaling in the Southern Hemisphere and the whales’ “tropical breeding grounds” devastated the population.

Their federally protected status has helped their numbers. Some areas, including Australia, parts of Africa and South America, have seen 10 percent increases in whale population numbers every year. The north Atlantic and north Pacific have also seen favorable increases. However, it’s not all good news. Per the IWC, Oceania’s humpback whale numbers haven’t appeared to recover with only 2,000 whales left.

In Alaska‘s north Pacific region, IOL reports that the current population is around 22,000 strong. This is a huge improvement from the 1990s. During the 1990s, there were around 1,000 humpback whales in the region.

What Alaskas Saying Now

Alaska’s humpback whales have bounced back, but the progress that took decades could all change in 2014. As reported in IOL, a February 2014 petition asked federal fisheries managers to remove the endangered status of central north Pacific’s humpback whales, after more than 40 years of federal protection.

Petitioners argue that the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection is no longer necessary for two reasons: 1) the increasing population numbers, and 2) other regulations that already protect the cetaceans.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) doesn’t seem too opposed. As IOL reports, in an official statement, NOAA explains, “substantial scientific or commercial information [indicate] that the petitioned action may be warranted.”

NOAA also wants the public to weigh in. NOAA will listen to the people and to concerned environmental groups until July 28. After incorporating public, scientific and commercial opinions and conducting its own review, NOAA will decide the fate of Alaska’s humpback whales. There will be three possible outcomes: 1) no change, 2) the whales will be delisted, or 3) their protection status will be reduced to threatened.

Hawaiis Already Asked NOAA

As reported in the Huffington Post, Hawaiian Senator Solomon is in Alaska’s same boat. Hawaii put the status of the humpbacks on the map when the senator explained that society’s caring too much about the whales and forgetting the people — who should be the ‘priority.’

Solomon further explains, “‘Nooo, don’t delist them!’ Well, you know what? It’s costing you money, costing the taxpayer money — dollars that could be used in other areas” such as ‘the protection of other endangered species that our state may feel is a priority.’”

Threats Should Also Be Priorities

Maybe Senator Solomon wants a less expensive priority, who knows. A quick news search reveals that humpback whales are definitely not in the clear. As reported in VOCM, two humpback whales were rescued after getting caught in fishing gear. Three humpbacks have been released from Conception Bay, over the past weeks alone. And the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports how a 45-foot humpback whale mysteriously washed up on a beach near Florida’s Pajaro Dunes dead.

The truth is that humpbacks are still threatened. According to MERS, humpback whales are still getting tangled in fishing gear. The massive creatures sometimes come head-to-head with our vessels, or ships. The whales could also be running out of food because of our overfishing and habitat degradation, and we’re not sure if the whales can cope with these food shortages. As Earth Justice reports, even the Navy has harmed the welfare of the whales.

One of the biggest threats is also the illegal whaling industry. For instance, until recently, not even a ban on whaling had stopped Japan from killing whales and selling their meat. Yet, as MNN reports, even Japan could have a change in heart. Instead of eating humpbacks, whale-watching and ecotourism could replace the country’s taste for whale.

Take Action!

If Japan is taking steps forward, then why does Alaska (or Hawaii) want to go backwards. Humpback whales are still threatened, they are still dying and they still need our help. Please sign and share this petition to let the NOAA know that you don’t want to see humpback whales removed from the Endangered Species List.

Photo Credit: Gregory Smith

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven4 months ago

thanks for the article.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper10 months ago

noted - stupid

Marcia Geiger
Marcia Geigerabout a year ago

Yo NOAA, you folks should be thrilled that the humpbacks have made a comeback....not put them back in the crosshairs to be taken off the protected list.
After all, many will still die,: hit by ships, damaged by Naval Sonar testing, being drowned by getting caught up in castoff netting from fishing there is always a lawless person around to kill one.
USE the brains and common sense that hopefully some of you have retained since getting your jobs,

Angela Padovani
Angela Padovaniabout a year ago

Petition signed. Keep the humpbacks on the list. Does every animal need to be killed to make money?

Mark Donners
Mark Donnersabout a year ago

First Canada (anything barbaric and vicious out of Canada is not surprise any more) and now the US. It seems that any country that has been colonized by the European barbarians exhibits this type of Neanderthal vicious behavior towards wildlife and the environment. The western colonies and their Asian clones are at the top of the degraded human heap. Humanity is suicidal though, it won't last as a species. The tragedy is that it wants to take all life to hell with it.

Angev GERIDONIabout a year ago

Thank you to all who love the animals and the planet, and who already signed the petition to protect horses from Pétropolis, if no, please help give an happy end to the sad story of those enslaved animals, and share these petitions :
1) Care 2
To know more on poor horses from Petropolis :
3) Petropolis shame‬
Thank you for sharing

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.about a year ago

Previously signed. And there again it was man putting themselves ahead of wildlife. This is a sad society.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padillaabout a year ago

Petition already signed

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagleabout a year ago

I signed the petition.

ERIKA SOMLAIabout a year ago

signed petition