The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a review of whether it should take North Pacific humpback whales off the endangered species list.
Humpback whales were placed on the U.S. list of endangered species in 1988, a time when the whales were hunted to the brink of extinction. This could, however, be about to change. The U.S. government initiated a status review of the species on August 12, 2009 and the results have been under examination for the past four years.
The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. Adults range in length from 39–52 feet and weigh approximately 80,000 pounds. The humpback has a distinctive body shape, with unusually long pectoral fins and a knobbly head. Humpback whales are anywhere from a gray to black color and have white markings on their underside. Differing in every whale, these markings are like fingerprints, allowing researchers to identify individuals.
It is estimated that there are more than 21,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific today. More than half of those in the North Pacific spend the winter breeding and calving in Hawaii's warm waters.
One of the reasons why the whale may come off the list, aside from numbers having risen slightly during the period of the ban, is due to pressure from the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc. According to Nature World News, Philip Fernandez, the group's president, said: "You cannot add species after species after species without evaluating whether there are species that should come off."
The group have raised a petition which as been published in the Federal Register. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is duty bound to review the petition, along with other evidence.
It remains to be seen which way the decision will go. An answer will be given in 2014.