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Once hunted almost to extinction, humpback whales are being delisted as a threatened species by Australia.
Announcing the change on Saturday, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the change follows public consultation and advice from the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
Rather than destroying protection safeguards, she said the delisting is a recognition of “outstanding conservation efforts”.
The growth in whale numbers sends a "message of hope" for both the whales and other animal species, highlighting the power of "coordinated action", the Minister added.
“At the height of the global whaling industry there were as few as 1500 Humpback whales in Australian waters, today that population is believed to be as many as 40,000 individuals and growing,” she said.
“Australia is a world leader in whale conservation, and we will continue to work through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to promote whale conservation and maintain the global moratorium on commercial whaling.”
Conservationists issue warning following whale delisting
While acknowledging the success of government efforts to help the whale recover, Humane Society International (HSI) has issued a warning.
Climate change and the resulting “profound ecosystem changes” are likely to pose a serious threat to the future of humpback whales, the conservation group argues.
“We are concerned it may prove to be short-sighted in the face of looming climate impacts and very worrying predictions,” HSI campaigner Alexia Wellbelove said.
“We are so appreciative of the concerted efforts undertaken to recover humpback whale populations, we would hate to see those efforts wasted by jumping the gun and removing the whale's threatened status.”
Japan and Europe continue whaling despite international ban
The Federal Government is now considering initiating a long-term monitoring program to ensure populations remain stable.
Whaling has been outlawed since the IWC declared a moratorium on commercial hunting in 1986.
Only three countries continue to defy the ban and conduct hunts within their own territorial waters.
Iceland signalled this month that it would cease the practice by 2024 due to a drop in demand for the meat.
This was triggered after Japan resumed commercial whaling in 2019 and withdrew from the IWC.
Norway continues to hunt minke whales for its domestic market and to export to Japan.
In 2021 they signalled the quota for the upcoming season would be 1278 individuals, more than doubling the take recorded in each of the previous two years.
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