Should Humpback Whales Be Removed From the Endangered Species List in 2014?

Written by Michael Richard Graham

After being almost hunted to extinction, humpback whales were added to the U.S. list of endangered species in 1988. Adults can be 40-50 feet long and weigh around 80,000lbs! They are a baleen whale, which means that they filter their food with baleen plates rather than eat it with teeth. North Pacific humpback whales came particularly close to extinction, with an estimated population of just 1,500 before the whaling ban took place. Since then, they went from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in 1996, and with a current population estimated around 18,000-20,000, some are calling for the species to be removed from the protection list altogether.

On one hand, it’s a victory. Efforts by conservationists have helped the species rebound to a more viable population. But on the other hand, any decision about removal from the U.S. endangered species list must be taken very carefully. A premature removal of this extra protection could have negative consequences.

The Hawaii Fishermen’s Alliance is the main group that has been asking for North Pacific humpback whales to be removed from the endangered species list:

The fishermen say they don’t want whaling to resume and aren’t asking to be allowed to hunt the whales. They’re also not trying to make it easier for them to catch fish, as they say the law’s protections for the whales don’t interfere with fishing.

Instead, the fishermen are acting after watching environmental conservation groups petition to add many more species to the endangered list in recent years, like dozens of corals, seven different damselfish and a rare dolphin called a false killer whale, said Philip Fernandez, the coalition’s president. The government should consider humpback whales for removal to maintain a balance, Fernandez said.

“You cannot add species after species after species without evaluating whether there are species that should come off,” the West Hawaii fisherman told The Associated Press by telephone from Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. (source)

The last time that a species’ recovery led to a removal from the list was in 1994, when NOAA delisted the Eastern North Pacific population of gray whales.

We should know in 2014 if the North Pacific humpback joins this select club.

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Kelvin L.
Kelvin L.4 years ago

Hey everybody,

just FYI the US endangered species act does not protect any animal outside of the US's jurisdiction... That's the reason why Sea Shepherd is a big deal because there isn't anyone willing to enforce national law if the company plays by the "rules" of their govt and the international agreement, which technically the Japanese whaling ships do, they just do it for the wrong reasons (money, not research).

Also, the reason you can't keep adding to the list is because these programs receive special funding from the US govt. This funding comes from taxes on outdoor gear, hunting and fishing licenses, and a few other sources. These programs have limited resources, which become even more limited because the Department of the Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association and Department of Natural Resources get sued constantly for removing species that have become viable, like humpback whales.

It is important to recognize that there are several international laws preventing direct attacks on the humpback whale, and that removing from the endangered species list opens up resources (not just funding, but work force and survey equipment) for other species that are where the humpback whale once was.

The ESA is intended to focus those resources on struggling populations so that they become resilient and resistant. After that

Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

If they are removed I'm almost certain this time they will kill them all! Just the japanese.....

Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski4 years ago

Interesting, thanks for sharing!

Laura Saxon
.4 years ago

No way! They should be kept on it. Thanks for sharing.

Aleisha D.
Aleisha D4 years ago

no, I don't think so!

Mark Donner
Mark Donner4 years ago

Who cares what that gang of greedy ocean raping "fishermen" think? If they make any more annoying noise just drop the worthless criminals into the ocean with a pod of hungry sharks so we can get those idiots on the endangered species list.

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B4 years ago

Duh - of course they should remain protected. And for goodness sakes put half the worlds species on that list too!! Until the human becomes extinct then no animal is safe - even with the protections of the endangered species act it still doesn't mean they are completely protected. Factors like pollution, rises in sea temperature and ocean acidification and over fishing of the seas, will sadly mean these and many other sea creatures will face many challenges - challenges that sadly, may prove too great.

Alexandra G.
Alexandra G4 years ago

Petition signed

Bev Woodburn
Bev Woodburn4 years ago

Leave the Humpback Whales alone. They should remain on our Endangered Species List for ever. If not then the killings will begin, especially by the Japs.