Don't Delist: Keep Humpback Whales on the Endangered Species List


Read Pacific Whale Foundation's Testimony

On April 20, 2015, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ruled to split humpback whales into 14 distinct populations, and to further remove 10 of these populations - including the Hawai'i breeding population - from the Endangered Species List. 

The ruling stems from a April 2013 petition filed by the Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition, Inc. The petition asked NOAA to remove the North Pacific population of humpback whale from the Endangered Species List.  The Federal government determined that delisting may be warranted, thereby initiating a status review.

In February 2014, a second petitioned was filed, this time by the State of Alaska, requesting that the Central North Pacific population of humpback whale be removed from the Endangered Species List. 

Pacific Whale Foundation does not support the delisting of any population of humpback whale in the North Pacific due to:

  1. Lack of sufficient pre-exploitation population estimates for North Pacific populations of humpback whale;
  2. Poor understanding of the relationship between humpback whale stocks within the North Pacific;
  3. An inadequate evaluation of threats to humpback whales in the North Pacific, including entanglement in fishing gear, underwater noise pollution, ocean acidification, habitat loss and destruction, ship strikes, loss of prey, ecosystem changes and climate change.

Delisting appears to be largely motivated by commercial fishing and oil/gas exploration interests.  Although humpback whales will continue to be protected by regulations such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the "Endangered" status of the humpback is much more restrictive in terms of permitted Federal activity - such as oil and gas exploration.  

In a recent report, for example, Alaska officials publicly stated:

"...given the recovery of the humpbacks here, the law represents an unnecessary regulatory burden on industries including oil and fishing"

Doug Vincent-Lang, the Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation (Alaska Department of Fish and Game),assured the public that adequate protections, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, remain in place to ensure conservation of the whales.

An opinion piece published in the Alaska Dispatch in 2012, however, raised serious concerns about Vincent-Lang's appointment to the Director position, describing him as:

 "...the person [often] asked to justify the state’s opposition to endangered species management by the federal government in Alaska."

It is unfortunate that in so many cases, the loss of species and the environment is justified in the face of large corporations and industries.  Let's work together to make sure that doesn't happen with the humpback whale!

Pacific Whale Foundation asks you to speak up for the humpback whale populations in the North Pacific.  Please submit public comments by following the instructions below.

For your convenience, we have also supplied a sample statement that can be copied and pasted into the public comment online forum.  However, taking just a few moments to personalize your statement can prove extra powerful!  For additional information, refer to Pacific Whale Foundation's testimony opposing the delisting of humpback whales.