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Humpback whales are thriving in Australian waters

Conservation efforts have paid off in Australia, with the country removing humpback whales from its threatened species list.

Before whaling operations ceased in Australia in 1963, and international protections were put in place two years later, more than 30,000 humpback whales were killed by whalers in Australia and New Zealand, The Guardian reports. Only about 1,500 humpbacks were in Australian waters at the time, and today, it's estimated there are at least 40,000.

Australian Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that removing humpback whales from the threatened species list is "a recognition of the success of the outstanding conservation efforts that are in place." There are still domestic and international protections to safeguard the species, Ley added, and Australia will keep working with the International Whaling Commission to "to promote whale conservation and maintain the global moratorium on commercial whaling."

Australia's decision to remove the humpback whale from its threatened species list is "based on science and sends a clear signal about what can be achieved through coordinated action," Ley continued. "It is a message of hope for the welfare of a number of species." Environmentalists still caution that rising sea temperatures will likely harm the krill populations in Antarctica, a feeding ground for the whales.