The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is launching a review of whether it should take North Pacific humpback whales off the endangered species list.
NOAA Fisheries is responding to a petition filed by a group of Hawaii fishermen saying the whale should no longer be classified as endangered because its population has steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.
The agency said in a Federal Register notice this week the petition presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating a delisting may be warranted. It will study the issue for the next year.
The Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc. filed its petition in April.
There are more than 21,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific, compared with about 1,400 in the mid-1960s.