In this July 9, 2014 photo, an adult humpback whale breaches in Lynn Canal near Juneau, Alaska.
Michael Penn—AP
By Tessa Berenson
April 21, 2015

Most humpback whales may no longer be endangered.

On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) proposed removing more than two-thirds of the world’s humpback whale population from the endangered species list.

Humpback whales were first classified as in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1970. The NOAA’s proposal would remove 10 of the 14 recognized whale populations from the endangered species list, while two would be listed as endangered and the remaining two would be classified as threatened.

“The return of the iconic humpback whale is an ESA success story,” Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, said in the NOAA release. “As we learn more about the species—and realize the populations are largely independent of each other—managing them separately allows us to focus protection on the animals that need it the most.”

The last time NOAA removed a species from the endangered list due its recovery was in 1994, when it took off a population of gray whales, the Associated Press reports. Once removed from the list, all the humpback whales would still be protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

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