Hooray for Humpbacks

ENVIRONMENT

An Earth Day success story! Most humpback whale populations may soon be off the endangered species list. “We live in an age where all we hear is terrible news,” says one expert. “[T]he fact that something as iconic and amazing as a humpback whale can be taken off the endangered list is a phenomenal thing.” (San Jose Mercury News)

Learn more about humpbacks’ incredible journeys in our article.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Whales, like these beauties in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, may soon be off the endangered species list. Photograph courtesy Dr. Louis M. Herman/NOAA

Whales, like these beauties in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, may soon be off the endangered species list.
Photograph courtesy Dr. Louis M. Herman/NOAA

Discussion Ideas

 

Part of the reason why so many humpback whales may no longer be classified as endangered is that the world population has been broken into 14 distinct groups. Read our article to follow the lines of this terrific NOAA map. Map courtesy NOAA

Part of the reason why so many humpback whales may no longer be classified as endangered is that the world population has been broken into 14 distinct groups. Read our article to follow the lines of this terrific NOAA map.
Map courtesy NOAA

  • Why has NOAA suggested dividing the world’s humpback whales in to 14 distinct groups?

 

This humpback checking out the Antarctic icescape is part of a population that may no longer be considered endangered. (I love this image!) Photograph by Ari Friedlaender, National Science Foundation

This humpback checking out the Antarctic icescape is part of a population that may no longer be considered endangered. (I love this image!)
Photograph by Ari Friedlaender, National Science Foundation

  • NOAA has not proposed that all humpbacks should be off the list. Where do threatened and endangered populations remain?
    • Threatened: NOAA proposes the Central American population (off the Pacific coast of Central America) and the Western North Pacific population (around the Philippines) be classified as threatened.
    • Endangered: NOAA proposes the Arabian Sea population (between the eastern Arabian Peninsula and the western Indian subcontinent) and the West African population (off Africa’s northwest Atlantic coast) remain listed as endangered.

 

  • If humpback whales are no longer on the endangered species list, does that mean hunting humpback whales will be allowed?
    • Hold on, humpbacks are not off the endangered species list yet! NOAA just proposed the new classification this week, and will consider public comments for 90 days. (You’re the public! Comment here—let the good folks at NOAA know if you support the delisting or not, and why.)
    • And No! Even if taken off the endangered species list, humpbacks and other whales are still protected by the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act in the U.S.
    • FYI: Worldwide, humpback whales are not an endangered species. (In fact, they’re a species of “least concern.”) Hunting of humpback whales is largely isolated to indigenous populations in the Caribbean and Greenland, who hunt fewer than 10 animals each year. Japanese whaling ships have also infrequently hunted humpbacks.

 

whales

Learn more about whales of the world with this classic Nat Geo illustration.
Illustration by Larry Fosster, National Geographic

  • Many other cetaceans, including blue whales and right whales, remain endangered. Why have humpbacks bounced back while other whales in the same habitats are so much slower to recover?
    • According to the Merc, “One reason why humpbacks have recovered more quickly than other whales is that they have a more widely varied diet, not only eating krill, but a range of different fish species.”

 

 

Celebrate the recovery of the humpback whale by downloading this terrific coloring page from Nat Geo Kids! Download the rest of the coloring book here. Illustration by Natalya Zahn, National Geographic

Celebrate the recovery of the humpback whale by downloading this terrific coloring page from Nat Geo Kids! Download the rest of the coloring book here.
Illustration by Natalya Zahn, National Geographic

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

San Jose Mercury News: Humpback whale population grows, animals proposed to be removed from Endangered Species Act

NOAA: Send Your Government a Message! Comment on the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Proposed Rule: Endangered and Threatened Species: Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae); Identification of 14 Distinct Population Segments and Revision of Species-wide Listing

Nat Geo: Incredible Journey: Humpback whales travel as far as 100 miles a day

Nat Geo: Whales of the World illustration

Nat Geo: Coloring Book Animals

2 responses to “Hooray for Humpbacks

  1. Pingback: Talking Turkey | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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