Some Alaska humpback whales to stay on list

    HONOLULU (AP) — Some environmentalists say the federal government is moving in the wrong direction by taking most humpback whales off the Endangered Species list.

    Center for Biological Diversity attorney Kristen Monsell said Tuesday that humpback whales face significant and growing threats, including getting entangled in fishing gear.

    She says the protections should stay in place for the whales.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service on Tuesday recognized 14 distinct populations of humpback whales in the world. It said nine of them have recovered enough to warrant being removed from the endangered list.

    Five will be classified as endangered or threatened, which is a category below endangered in terms of the challenges to survival faced by a species.

    Before, the agency classified all humpback whales as one population and said they were all endangered.

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    Some humpback whales that feed in Alaska each summer are being taken off the endangered species list, but others will stay on it. Meanwhile, one group of whales that spend its summers off Alaska's coast will be listed as threatened, the category below endangered in terms of the challenges to survival faced by a species.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service said Tuesday humpback whales that breed in Hawaii waters in the winter are being taken off the list.

    But the Western North Pacific population that winters near Okinawa and the Philippines will remain endangered. Fisheries Service Endangered Species Act listing coordinator Marta Nammack says that's in part because this group only has about 1,000 whales. It also faces threats from energy exploration and development, whaling and fishing gear entanglements.

    The Mexico population is listed as threatened.

    The agency recognized 14 distinct humpback whale populations in the world. It says nine have recovered enough that they don't need Endangered Species Act protections.

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    A Hawaii fishermen's group is happy federal authorities are taking most of the world's humpback whales off the endangered species list.

    Philip Fernandez of the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition says his group petitioned for the delisting three years ago after noticing the whales were abundant around Hawaii.

    He says the growth in whale numbers is a sign of successful ocean management. He says fishermen wanted to point this out to the world.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service on Tuesday recognized 14 distinct populations of humpback whales and said nine of them have recovered enough in the last 40 years to warrant being removed from the endangered list.

    Hawaii's population is among those being delisted.

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    This story has been corrected to show the agency action took place on Tuesday, not Monday.

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    Humpback whales that frequent California, the Pacific Northwest, Mexico and Central America will continue to receive Endangered Species Act protections.

    But the National Marine Fisheries Service on Monday said it's taking most other humpback whale populations around the world off the endangered list. The agency cited the animal's recovery after the end of commercial whaling decades ago for the change.

    Humpbacks that breed in Central America and feed up north, however, are being listed as endangered. Those that breed in Mexico and feed in the north will also be listed as threatened.

    Fisheries Service Endangered Species Act listing coordinator Marta Nammack says the Mexico population numbers just 3,200. The Central American population is estimated at only about 400.

    In contrast, more than 11,000 humpback whales breed in Hawaii waters. They are being taken off the list.

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    Federal authorities are taking most humpback whales off the endangered species list.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service said Monday that nine of the 14 distinct populations of humpbacks have recovered enough in the last 40 years to warrant being removed from the endangered list.

    The agency says four distinct populations remain listed as endangered and one as threatened.

    The National Marine Fisheries Service last year proposed removing most of the world's humpback whales from the endangered species list. It said populations of the animals have steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.

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