HONOLULU (AP) -

Federal authorities are taking most humpback whales off the endangered species list.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) said Monday that nine of 14 distinct populations of humpbacks have recovered enough in the last 40 years to warrant being removed from the endangered list.

The agency says Humpback whales that frequent California, the Pacific Northwest, Mexico, and Central America will continue to receive Endangered Species Act protection. Humpbacks that breed in Central America and feed up north, however, are being listed as endangered, and those that breed in Mexico and feed in the north will be listed as threatened.

The NMFS, last year proposed removing most of the world's humpback whales from the endangered species list. It said populations of the animals have steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.