30 years ago this November, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home presented a future that didn't have any humpback whales in it.
"They've been extinct since the 21st Century," Spock tells Admiral Kirk as the crew prepares to travel back in time to rescue a pair of whales so they could tell an alien probe that was inexplicably broadcasting whale songs to back off and stop wreaking havoc on the Earth's weather.
Back in 1986, both the year the film was made and the year the cast of Star Trek travels back to, the idea that humpback whales might be extinct by the 23rd century seemed plausible enough to base a movie around. They had been on the endangered species list since 1970 and at one point the Endangered Species Coalition says there were only between 10,000 to 15,000 humpback whales left in the wild.
Not anymore. Federal authorities announced on Tuesday that they were removing most species of humpback whales from the endangered species list, as their numbers had significantly recovered.
“Today’s news is a true ecological success story,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminsitration official Eileen Sobeck said in a statement.
The resurgence isn't due to a fictional mission involving traveling to 1980s San Francisco, the invention of transparent aluminum and "nuclear wessels." It's more thanks to international bans on commercial whaling and laws like the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Many Star Trek fans on social media made the connection between the NOAA announcement and the movie as well.
Several populations of humpbacks will remain under the endangered protections as their populations have bounced back less, and all of the whales still face dangers from being entangled in fishing gear, colliding with vessels and illegal hunting.
The NOAA released a map showing which populations still need protection.
Maybe the celebration is premature. Spock did say the whales were hunted to extinction sometime in the 21st century, so it is possible some great whale-pocalypse still looms ahead of us. But I can't think of any looming ecological disasters, can you?