Most populations of humpback whales no longer need endangered species protections, says US National Marine Fisheries Service. They'll remain covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Once hunted to the brink of extinction because of their oil and meat, the U.S. government listed all humpback whales as endangered back in 1970.
But earlier this week, 9 of the 14 distinct groups of humpback were taken off the endangered list. Four remain endangered and one remains "threatened".
Two of the four populations that remain endangered are found in U.S. waters at certain times of the year. The Central America population feeds off the West Coast, while the Western North Pacific population does so in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The Mexico population – listed as threatened – also feeds off the West Coast of the United States and Alaska.
All humpback whales remain protected in U.S. waters and on the high seas under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, regardless of their ESA status.