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Fishermen want North Pacific humpbacks off endangered list

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:33 a.m. HST, May 04, 2013

A group of Hawaii fishermen is asking the federal government to remove northern Pacific humpback whales from the endangered species list, saying the population has steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.

Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc., a coalition of fishing clubs and groups from across the islands, filed a petition to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month.

There are more than 21,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific today, compared with about 1,400 in the mid-1960s.

More than half spend the winter breeding and calving in Hawaii's warm waters. The animals, known for acrobatic leaps and complex singing patterns, have become a major draw for tourists and support a thriving whale-watching industry in Hawaii. Other North Pacific humpbacks winter off Mexico, Central America, Japan and the Philippines.

In the summer they migrate to feed on krill and fish in waters off Alaska, Canada and Russia.

The fishermen say they don't want whaling to resume and aren't asking to be allowed to hunt the whales. They're also not trying to make it easier for them to catch fish, as they say the law's protections for the whales don't interfere with fishing.

Instead, the fishermen are acting after watching environmental conservation groups petition to add many more species to the endangered list in recent years, like dozens of corals, seven different damselfish and a rare dolphin called a false killer whale, said Philip Fernandez, the coalition's president. The government should consider humpback whales for removal to maintain a balance, Fernandez said.

"You cannot add species after species after species without evaluating whether there are species that should come off," the West Hawaii fisherman said by telephone from Kailua-Kona.

Fishermen are concerned the Endangered Species Act is being used as a tool to manage the oceans and that this will ultimately affect how fishermen are allowed to fish, Fernandez said.

"The key thing is the ESA has turned into somewhat of a battleground," he said.

The commercial whaling ban and other regulations would continue to protect the whales even if they were to lose their endangered status, the petition said. Though some whales die each year after being hit by ships and getting accidentally caught in fishing gear, the petition argues these accidents haven't interfered with the overall population's growth.

The fishermen are asking NOAA to first declare the North Pacific whales a distinct population. If the agency does so, the coalition wants NOAA to then remove this population from the endangered list. Humpbacks are found around the world — globally they number about 60,000 — but the petition is seeking delisting for whales only in the North Pacific.

Angela Somma, NOAA Fisheries endangered species division chief, said the petition is the first seeking to delist humpback whales since they were classified as endangered in 1970.

The law gives the agency until mid-July to determine whether the petition merits consideration. If NOAA finds the petition has merit, the agency must come to a conclusion by mid-April.

NOAA last removed a species from the endangered list in 2008, when it determined the Caribbean monk seal had gone extinct. The last time a species' recovery prompted delisting was in 1994, when the agency removed the eastern North Pacific population of gray whales from the list.

NOAA also is considering delisting both the Hawaii population of green sea turtles and a population of Steller sea lions that lives off the coast of California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

Miyoko Sakashita, a San Francisco-based attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, said ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements still threaten humpbacks.

Humpback whale delisting petition: www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/petitions/north_pacific_humpback_petition_2013.pdf

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LMO wrote:
"The fishermen say they don't want whaling to resume and aren't asking to be allowed to hunt the whales." Maybe YHEY won't hunt the whales, but we certainly know of at least one nation that will. Perhaps this group gets funding from Japan?
on May 4,2013 | 01:51AM
waikiicapt wrote:
on May 4,2013 | 08:35AM
Anonymous wrote:
government and non-profits initially have good intentions and end up being worse than the initial problem - as they become like leeches dependent on funding to survive after they have outlived their original purpose...
on May 4,2013 | 11:16AM
5xcalibir2 wrote:
Big bingo!!!!!!....they think we don't know about the Japanese fishing village of Taiji?....that herds dolphins into a cove and slaughters them?.....they should rename they're club to Japan/Hawaii Fisherman's Alliance for Conservation and Japanese Tradition.
on May 4,2013 | 09:35AM
kiragirl wrote:
Something smells "fishy".
on May 4,2013 | 03:27AM
false wrote:
What's "fishy" is why an animal that is not endangered is on the endangered list.
on May 4,2013 | 05:49AM
Waterman2 wrote:
Gotta understand....no endangered list for whales about 100 PHDs gotta find another job. The endangered species list really isn't about animals.
on May 4,2013 | 06:16AM
5xcalibir2 wrote:
Suggest you watch the movie "The Cove"...and see if you don't come away thinking this group has a different agenda...maybe a certain country is paying them to get the gov't to relax certain rules?
on May 4,2013 | 09:38AM
allie wrote:
Hawaiians tend to have the worst record with endangered species. Protect these dear animals!
on May 4,2013 | 03:17PM
serious wrote:
Bald eagles were taken off the endangered list six years ago and they are to the point of being a problem -- taking the food from the ospreys and other fish eating birds.
on May 4,2013 | 06:45AM
LittleEarl_01 wrote:
One question for the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc. WHY? If you're not planning on hunting them and we all know that they eat plankton, which fisherman don't catch, WHY?
on May 4,2013 | 07:21AM
st1d wrote:
"You cannot add species after species after species without evaluating whether there are species that should come off," the West Hawaii fisherman said by telephone from Kailua-Kona.

Fishermen are concerned the Endangered Species Act is being used as a tool to manage the oceans and that this will ultimately affect how fishermen are allowed to fish, Fernandez said.

on May 4,2013 | 09:12AM
5xcalibir2 wrote:
....or maybe a certain country is paying this organization to lobby for the removal of whales from the list...gee I wonder what country hunts whales regularly?
on May 4,2013 | 09:41AM
allie wrote:
well put
on May 4,2013 | 03:17PM
NuuanuMama wrote:
Agree with kiragirl, there is an underlying motive for the request to remove the whales that is not yet apparent. It hardly seems plausible that fishermen would organize to push for the humpbacks removal from the endangered species list when they claim it has no direct benefit to them. "Fishermen are concerned the Endangered Species Act is being used as a tool to manage the oceans and that this will ultimately affect how fishermen are allowed to fish, Fernandez said." This is their actual motive, they are pushing back on the effort to manage the oceans because it will restrict their fishing activities. Frankly, the oceans are being overfished. 3 lbs. of wild fish go into every lb. of farmed fish which is unsustainable. Without all those PhDs studying and monitoring and formulating protective legislation, the fishermen will fish edible species to extinction and then who will they blame?
on May 4,2013 | 07:25AM
Forever_Grateful wrote:
Right on NuuanuMama! Also I think there is a group behind this and I hope the truth will surface. I fear if the ban is lifted, they will be idiots out there that will kill them just for the sport of it OR because it eats the fish they want to catch. We need a petition to NOT lift the ban or somehow get our voices heard!
on May 4,2013 | 08:13AM
waikiicapt wrote:
Emotional panic
on May 4,2013 | 08:36AM
pakeheat wrote:
I also agree,this one time, LOL.
on May 4,2013 | 10:16AM
allie wrote:
on May 4,2013 | 03:17PM
GorillaSmith wrote:
If the humpback whale is removed from the endangered list, will the Greenpeace racists have to stop harassing Japanese fishermen and get real jobs? Maybe they can all find work as community organizers or homeless advocates. :>)
on May 4,2013 | 07:33AM
5xcalibir2 wrote:
Watch the movie "The Cove"....Japanese are not fisherman...they're murderers!!!! Check it out.
on May 4,2013 | 09:46AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Supporters of the former Superferry are saying "See...bachi...."
on May 4,2013 | 08:09AM
waikiicapt wrote:
on May 4,2013 | 08:37AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
One of the major arguments made by the anti-Superferry people was that the ships traveled so fast that they posed a huge threat for whales for were reportedly too stupid to get out of the way.
on May 4,2013 | 10:12AM
artwork wrote:
The Fishy Alliance reps look very Asian on TV. I'm wondering what type of kickback they'll be getting from Japan for offering up the whales?
on May 4,2013 | 09:55AM
5xcalibir2 wrote:
Japan has paid big money in the past to land-locked African countries just to get their vote at the international meetings...looks like they're extending the kick-backs to Hawaii
on May 4,2013 | 10:11AM
lopekana wrote:
The trail leads directly to WESPAC...This is about protection of longliners. Same thing with delisting honu. Duh.
on May 4,2013 | 12:11PM
copperwire9 wrote:
Yes indeed. You're the first of this article's commenters to get it.
on May 5,2013 | 12:44AM
bumba wrote:
Who are they trying to kid?
on May 4,2013 | 12:13PM
loveneverfails wrote:
All ocean waters are sea life's habitat. The whales are in their rightful place and they have a purpose for existing. So here we are again, uneducated human demanding and dictating what WE think is good for THEM. Leave them on the endangered list and let God take care the rest.
on May 4,2013 | 12:54PM
Bothrops wrote:
Hello, humpbacks don't feed in Hawaiian waters. They feed in Alaska. The whales may have recovered enough to merit delisting but these people have no rational for this except 'balance'. They claim since a damselfish went on the endangered species list, the whales should come off. This makes no sense.
on May 4,2013 | 04:17PM
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