British Columbia

U.S. removes most humpback whales from endangered list

Some of the humpback whale populations found on the B.C. coast are among those that are no longer listed as endangered by the U.S. government.

Change in designation likely also coming from Canadian authorities, UBC researcher says

The 'comeback humpback' known as Windy breaches in the Salish Sea. (Tasli Shaw/Steveston Seabreeze Adventures)

Some of the humpback whale populations found on the B.C. coast are among those that are no longer listed as endangered by the U.S. government.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has split the global humpback whale population into 14 distinct groups to reflect that whales in some areas are doing better than others.

Nine of those groups, including whales that breed in Hawaii and travel to B.C. to feed, are believed to be sufficiently recovered and have been removed from the U.S. federal endangered species list.

"They are at a point now where many of these populations can be considered to be fully recovered," said Andrew Trites, the director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit at UBC.

"Overall, it's a very good news story of what can be done when a species is protected," Trites told Robyn Burns on All Points West.

A similar change in designation for humpback whale populations is also likely coming from Canadian authorities, Trites said.​

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has made a similar recommendation to change the status of humpbacks from threatened to special concern, but that has not yet become official, he said.

"It will happen and could happen within the next few months."

But not all of the humpback whale populations found off B.C. are out of the woods yet.

Humpbacks found in the Strait of Georgia and Salish Sea are often from weaker populations in either Mexico or Central America, Trites said.

Whales found in B.C. waters that are further north are usually from populations that breed in Hawaii and are thriving, he added.

With files from All Points West

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Humpback whale comeback continues