NOAA says it's a whale of a success story: Most of the world's humpback whale populations, including all those that enter US waters, are no longer endangered, according to the agency. NOAA, which says 45 years of protection have helped whale populations rebound, wants to reclassify the species into 14 populations, only two of which would be classed as endangered, NBC News reports. The Central America and western North Pacific populations, which sometimes enter US waters, would be classed as threatened under the NOAA proposal, while the Arabian Sea and Cape Verde Islands populations would still be considered endangered. All 14 populations would remain protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
"This is good news for whales and whale conservation and should be cause for celebration, not a reason to run screaming from the room," the whale program director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare tells Science. "It shows that when we take appropriate steps to protect whales, they can recover." A senior biologist for Whale and Dolphin Conservation North America, however, tells the Guardian that the proposal seems premature. The species is too complicated to split into just 14 populations, she says, and they still face multiple threats, including boat strikes and entanglement. (A daring crew from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary used a knife on a pole to free a 45-ton whale entangled in fishing line.)