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Scientific name: Megaptera novaeangliae
Pacific Island names: koholā (Hawaiian), tafola (Samoan)
Stock Assessment / Estimated Breeding Population
For a current Stock Assessment Report (SAR), please visit: NOAA Fisheries - Office of Protected Resources - Marine Mammal SAR, Large Cetaceans, Central North Pacific Stock
- There are 5 Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). There are 9 other DPSs not listed under the ESA, including Hawaii DPS and Oceania DPS (American Samoa).
- Cape Verde/Northwest Africa DPS (endangered)
- Western North Pacific DPS (includes CNMI and Guam) (endangered)
- Central America DPS (endangered)
- Arabian Sea DPS (endangered)
- Mexico DPS (threatened)
- Designated as "depleted" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
- Unlawful to approach a humpback whale in Hawaii within 100 yards (90 m), or operate an aircraft within 1000 feet (300 m).
- Approach regulations for humpback whales in Hawaii and Alaska
- The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) also protects humpbacks whales in Hawaii and their habitat.
Please see Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) website for details of Humpback whale natural history.
- Ship strikes
- Entanglement in marine debris
- Bycatch in commercial fisheries
- Anthropogenic noise
- Degraded water quality
Current Management Issues
Endangered Species Listing History
- On September 8, 2016, NOAA Fisheries issued a final rule identifying 14 distinct population segments (DPSs) of humpback whale under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Four of these DPSs are listed as endangered and 1 as threatened, and 9 DPSs do not warrant listing. Humpback whales in Hawaii (Hawaii DPS) and American Samoa (Oceania DPS) are not listed. Humpback whales in the Marianas Archipelago (Western North Pacific DPS) are listed as endangered.
We intend to consider critical habitat for the 3 listed DPSs that occur in U.S. waters (Western North Pacific DPS (i.e., Marianas Archipelago), Central America DPS (range is not within the Pacific Islands region), and Mexico DPS (range is not within the Pacific Islands region)) in a separate rulemaking.
How do these DPSs and status changes affect the Pacific Islands Region?
The Hawaii DPS is not listed, so ESA section 7 consultations are no longer required for Federal actions that may affect humpback whales in this area, and ESA section 10(a)(1)(A) research permits are no longer needed for proposed research on humpback whales in the waters surrounding Hawaii. Existing humpback whale approach regulations apply within the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and on September 8, 2016, NOAA Fisheries issued humpback approach regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) that apply in all waters within 200 nautical miles of the islands of Hawaii (Regs.gov link). See below for more information on the MMPA approach regulation. An MMPA scientific research permit is still needed for any humpback whale research.
Since the endangered Western North Pacific DPS occurs in U.S. territories in the Marianas archipelago (Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands), ESA section 7 consultations will continue to be necessary in these areas for Federal actions that may affect humpback whales, and ESA section 10(a)(1)(A) permit applications will be needed for proposed research on humpback whales in these areas. An MMPA scientific research permit is still required for any humpback whale research.
The Oceania DPS occurs in the U.S. territory of American Samoa, but it is not listed, so Federal agencies will not need to consult under section 7 of the ESA on actions they fund, authorize, or carry out that may affect those humpback whales. Research on humpback whales in this area can proceed without an ESA section 10(a)(1)(A) research permit. However, an MMPA scientific research permit is still required for any humpback whale research.
- On April 21, 2015, NOAA Fisheries proposed to revise the ESA listing for the humpback whale to identify 14 DPSs, list 2 as threatened and 2 as endangered, and identify 10 others as not warranted for listing (80 FR 22304).
- On June 26, 2014, NOAA Fisheries made a positive 90-day finding (79 FR 36281), determining that the petitioned action may be warranted. Therefore, we continued our status review for the humpback whale to determine whether this population is a DPS and whether delisting is warranted.
- 90-day Finding (79 FR 36281)
- On February 26, 2014, a petition to identify the Central North Pacific population of humpback whales as a DPS and delist the DPS under the ESA was received from the State of Alaska.
- On August 29, 2013, NOAA Fisheries made a positive 90-day finding (78 FR 53391), determining that the petitioned action may be warranted and incorporated the consideration of the petitioned action into the ongoing status review commenced in 2009.
- On April 17, 2013, a petition to classify the North Pacific humpback whale population as a DPS and delist the DPS under the ESA was received from the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, Inc.
- On August 12, 2009, NOAA Fisheries initiated a status review of the entire humpback whale global taxon to determine whether an endangered listing for the entire taxon is still appropriate.
Existing humpback whale approach regulations in Hawaii were issued under authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With the September 8, 2016 ESA final listing rule, which divides the globally-listed humpback whale into 14 distinct population segments (DPSs), the ESA regulations no longer apply (because the Hawaii DPS is not listed). NOAA Fisheries determined that approach regulations are still warranted and, on September 8, 2016, published an interim final rule under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) authority that is similar to the ESA regulations. Humpback whale approach regulations in the Hawaiian Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary will remain in place within Sanctuary waters.
The public is able to comment on this interim final approach rule until November 7, 2016. View the interim final rule and instructions for submitting comments here. View the Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact here.
In a separate rule (81 FR 62018) also published concurrently with the listing revision, Alaska’s humpback whale approach regulations that appear in the part of the Code of Federal Regulations that covers endangered species were codified so that they also appear in the part that covers threatened species, to reflect the status change of the listed populations that feed there (the endangered Western North Pacific DPS and the threatened Mexico DPS). In that rule, we also added Alaska’s approach regulations to another part of the Code of Federal Regulations under authority of the MMPA to protect all humpback whales found off Alaska, including those not ESA-listed.
- Developing strategies to reduce shipstrikes during humpback whale season (November through May).
- Developing strategies to reduce entanglements and assisting the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) when an entanglement does occur.
Range Map of Humpback Whale DPS
Important Phone Numbers
Marine Mammal Stranding/Entanglement Hotline: 1-888-256-9840