Nine of fourteen humpback whale populations have been removed from the endangered species list, according to a recent report from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This triumph is being celebrated by conservationists and nature lovers the world over, not just for what it means for the whales, but because it proves that all our conservation efforts are changing the world.
Maui whale watching tours are among the most popular activities that visitors enjoy, so on top of all the other great things about this recovery, it’s good for the economy too. Perhaps this success will add momentum to worldwide conservation efforts. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, so we have to keep it up. It took 40 years for conservation measures to get humpback populations to this level, and some of those populations still need help. Out of 14 total distinct populations, four are still protected as endangered and one is listed as threatened.
The reason for the initial decline of humpback whale numbers was, not surprisingly, commercial whaling. Humpbacks were listed as endangered in 1970, when it became painfully clear that their numbers were failing. At that time, NOAA Fisheries sprang into action to protect them on a national and international scale. It’s a good thing they did. The International Whaling Commission placed a moratorium on whaling in 1982, which also played a big role in humpback recovery.
Although some of the humpback populations are no longer endangered, protections remain in place. In fact, two regulations were recently filed to maintain protections for whales in Alaska and here in Hawaii. These regulations specify distance limits for approaching vessels in order to help ensure the whales’ safety. We observe such laws with the utmost care, as you’ll know if you’ve ever been on one of our Maui whale watch tours in the past. If you’d like to join us on one of these tours in the future, you don’t have long to wait. Whale watching season is just a couple of months away!