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Fishermen: Take whale off endangered list

| Friday, May 3, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

HONOLULU — 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.

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