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Trump administration agrees to protect West Coast humpback whales

The Comeback Humpback known as Windy breaches in the Salish Sea in July 2016. Photo by Naturalist Tasli Shaw_Steveston Seabreeze Adventures_Steveston BC

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In a settlement with environmental groups, the Trump administration has agreed to designate critical Pacific Ocean habitat for endangered humpback whales.

The suit by the Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and Wishtoyo Foundation, a nonprofit that represents Native American tribes, was settled Friday in federal district court in San Francisco.

The National Marine Fisheries Service agreed to designate critical habitat for the animals by mid-2019 and finalize those boundaries a year later.

Humpback whales face threats from getting tangled in fishing gear, oil spills and being struck by ships. Federal authorities have designated three groups of West Coast humpbacks as endangered or threatened.

The groups say endangered species with protected critical habitat are twice as likely to show signs of recovery as those without it.