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Dear Alaska, Please Don’t Delist Humpback Whales Before They’re Ready

Dear Alaska, Please Don’t Delist Humpback Whales Before They’re Ready

The state of Alaska has taken action to have federal protection removed from North Pacific humpback whales, who it believes are no longer in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game filed a petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) this week seeking to have a population of North Pacific humpback whales who travel between Alaska and Hawaii every year declared as a distinct population that should be delisted.

There were believed to be as few as 1,000 humpbacks left when whaling was stopped in 1966. A few years later they were protected under the Endangered Species and Conservation Act of 1969 and then by the Endangered Species Act. Now scientists believe that there are more than 21,000 humpbacks in the North Pacific.

The population the state wants removed is known as the Central North Pacific subpopulation, which is the largest of three subpopulations in the North Pacific. Officials in Alaska believe that recovery goals have been met and that the Central North Pacific population is thriving and no longer needs to be considered in danger of extinction, either now or in the forseeable future. As far as other motives go, state officials also said that the law represents an unnecessary regulatory burden on industries that include fishing, oil and gas, reports the AP.

The petition follows on the heels of a similar one that was filed last year by a fishing association in Hawaii that sought to remove protection from the entire North Pacific population. Last August, the NMFS announced that the delisting may be warranted and started a status review for the North Pacific humpbacks.

Even though they’ve rebounded from the brink and would still be protected from hunting and harassment under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, conservationists are worried that the move to delist them could jeopardize their future survival. Humpbacks continue to face threats from climate change and collisions with ships that can be fatal. Scientists now fear that even more of these collisions will happen as more ships and species of whales, including humpbacks, head farther north into newly-ice free arctic waters.

In addition to ship strike, humpbacks also still face threats from noise pollution, ocean acidification that could affect their food sources and entanglement with fishing gear. Just this week another humpback was successfully rescued from a life threatening situation after being entangled in hundreds of feet of line off the coast of Maui.

“It is a really a good thing the number of whales appears to be growing. We see that as an Endangered Species Act success story,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But we think that NMFS should really take a careful look at the threats to these species before they jump to delisting.

The NMFS now has 90 days to decide whether Alaska’s petition warrants a review and if it does, then a 12-month study will be initiated. More news about what will happen with Hawaii’s petition is expected in April.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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4:15AM PST on Feb 19, 2015

thanks for sharing :)

5:38PM PDT on Mar 17, 2014

Humpback whales should NEVER be delisted. Why is this even an option? Unreal.

5:31PM PDT on Mar 17, 2014

I have lived in Alaska since coming up on the ferry from Seattle in August of 1980. I fell in love with Alaska on that trip and that love affair only grows stronger. It is a difficult place to live because the politicians and developers and oil(ed) people think they own the State and want nothing but money from it. They don't care about the environment or the future. We who care deeply about both, are constantly fighting them. I live in Talkeetna, and am now fighting hard to stop a mega dam from being built on the pristine, wild Susitna River. It is un-needed and un-wanted, but the politicians are telling the public lies and trying to get it pushed through. We've formed a Coalition and we're slowly getting the word out about alternative energy. I can tell you that there are many, many Alaskans who have been born here and who came here (born Outside) who love this land with all their hearts and want to see its wild places, wildlife, wild waters, wild whales, etc., saved, and protected forever. We're here, and we're fighting with everything we have. We don't side with the politicians or the others without conscience who seek to 'rape and pillage' and leave this land in 'smoking ruins', just so long as they get their money. We don't have the money they do to raise our voices and let people know we are here and fighting the good fight, but please know we ARE here and we DO care!

9:52PM PST on Mar 7, 2014

There is not a species of whale that is safe from extinction because of man's follies. All whales will always be endangered and should never be delisted.

1:23AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

"Dear Alaska, Stop Telling the World You Are Morons"!

There, I corrected your headline.

5:11PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

You know, Alaska is simply an arm of Texas and other oil grabbers and their policies reflect that. It used to be so very, very beautiful and then THEY came and THEY could care less about the animals and native peoples. It's now full of people like Palin and the other toadies who worship money and power - just like any other country that has resources that THEY want. Enough outcry and maybe this will work - but I have serious doubts that anything will really change until they have totally destroyed everything in their rush for fossil fuels and big bucks.

2:34PM PST on Mar 4, 2014


1:07PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Signed. Humpback whales should never, never be delisted. 78,000 whales were caught in the 19th century, we can see the result.

12:37PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

They'll NEVER be ready to be delisted, so long as the human species exists.

12:36PM PST on Mar 4, 2014

Signed. Isn't it a shame it is even an issue?

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