Humpback whales have been removed from Australia’s list of threatened species after a major recovery.
Sussan Ley, the Minister for the Environment, on Saturday announced that the Threatened Species Scientific Committee has determined that Australia’s humpback whale population has grown to the point where the iconic species could be removed from the list.
The species faced extinction before the 1980s as a result of whaling but the number of humpback whales in Australian waters has since increased from approximately 1,500 to 40,000, Xinhua news agency reported.
“This is not about removing safeguards for humpbacks, which are still a protected migratory species, but it is a recognition of the success of the outstanding conservation efforts that are in place,” Ley said in a statement.
“Our removal of the Humpback from the threatened species list is based on science and sends a clear signal about what can be achieved through coordinated action. It is a message of hope for the welfare of a number of species.”
Two humpback whale species breed in Australia and migrate along the east and west coasts of the country between May and November.
As a protected migratory species, it will remain an offence to kill, injure, trade, keep or move humpback whales in Australia.
Despite the significant change in the mammal’s status, conservationists have warned that climate change still poses a major threat to Australia’s humpback whales.
Nicola Beynon, a campaign manager for the Humane Society, said delisting the whales could prove a short-sighted decision.
“We understand why the government wants to celebrate, but we are concerned that the celebrations could be short lived,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“Humpback whales are facing the next threat that is coming down the line really seriously, which is climate change, and the predictions are that humpback whale recovery will slow and go into reverse.”