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. There are more than 21,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific, compared with about 1,400 in the mid-1960s.
The Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc. filed the petition in April. It seeks to have NOAA Fisheries first classify humpback whales in the northern Pacific Ocean as a distinct population. Then, it asks the agency to declare that population is no longer endangered. The agency, in a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday, said the petition presents substantial scientific and commercial information indicating the population is distinct and that a delisting may be warranted. It will study the issue for the next year. NOAA last removed a species from the endangered list in 2008, when it determined the Caribbean monk seal had gone extinct. The last time a species' recovery prompted delisting was in 1994, when the agency removed the eastern North Pacific population of gray whales from the list.
**** Clive Standen, best known for leading roles in the television dramas "Camelot" and "Vikings," is front and center for a new Sea Shepherd PSA spotlighting the horrors of the annual whale hunt in the Danish Faroe Islands. The 32-year-old actor goes on to detail the slaughter, known formally as the "Grindadrap," which targets and kills over 1,000 long-finned endangered Pilot Whales. Started back in 1584 as a means to provide food for those living in the Faroe Islands, the event today is nothing but a blood sport; with Sea Shepherd reporting that much of the meat is never consumed due to unsafe levels of mercury, PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants.
Grey areas indicate regions where summer concentrations are thought to occur for the humpback whale breeding stocks within the Southeast Atlantic and Southwest Indian Oceans , . White areas with black dots indicate the winter concentrations. The white star indicates the location of PALAOA. The light grey and the diagonally striped areas represent the larger summer and winter ranges, respectively, as suggested in this study.
The results of our study show that Southern Hemisphere humpback whales are also present near the ice-shelf edge in the austral winter (Fig. 5). Brown et al.,  suggested that females might avoid undertaking or completing the long-distance migration each year. Size rather than age is thought to be an important factor determining sexual maturity in humpback whale females  and it might therefore primarily be sexually or physically immature females that remain on the feeding grounds all year to maximize growth. These observations along with the relatively large number of Northern Hemisphere humpback whale populations in which individuals have been observed on the feeding grounds in winter , , , , , suggests that winter presence on the feeding grounds might be common to humpback whale populations in general, and possibly even a general characteristic of baleen whale migratory behavior .
Figure 5. Presence of humpback whale moans in relation to percentage ice coverage off PALAOA. The area graph shows the percentage of ice cover within a 100 km range off PALAOA. Red triangles indicate acoustic presence of humpback whales. Recording status of PALAOA is indicated by the black bar below the acoustic presence indicators (PALAOA is recording = black bar present).
The acoustic presence of humpback whales in the region off PALAOA in austral winter (June – August) implies that these whales overwinter in this area. Straley  found humpback whales present on Northern Hemisphere feeding grounds throughout winter, although no individual whales overwintered in the feeding area and whales were more likely to be irregular migrants departing late or arriving early on the feeding grounds. In our study, the extent of the Antarctic ice sheet in the mid-winter period with open water mainly occurring in coastal polynyas, is likely to periodically exclude large scale north- or southbound migration of whales. This suggests that whales present on the feeding grounds in winter are more or less confined to these areas until the sea-ice recedes in austral spring.
The acoustic presence of humpback whales in April and in austral winter when sea ice cover in the area around PALAOA is pervasive, contradicts previous suggestions that humpback whales avoid entering ice-covered areas , , . Little is known about the presence of baleen whales in ice-covered areas, mainly because of the logistic difficulties of accessing these regions, particularly in the Antarctic. Nevertheless, observations of several studies suggest that the availability of polynyas, or areas with open water that reliably occur, rather than the ice itself restricts cetacean distribution , . Sirovic et al.,  used passive acoustic techniques and found blue whale calls present in spring when sea ice cover was still substantial. Minke whales are known to associate with pack ice in winter and autumn  and have been observed creating breathing holes in ice . Large groups of various cetacean species were observed being ‘entrapped’ in pools surrounded by vast ice-covered areas in winter , , .
In the Antarctic, the presence of open water and the formation of polynyas are variable and depend on catabatic and westerly winds transporting ice in northern directions , whereas easterly winds parallel to the coast transport ice towards the Antarctic continent. Furthermore, the presence of icebergs can affect the formation and size of polynyas which often tend to form on the lee side of (stranded) icebergs or glacier tongues . Variability in the presence and size of areas with open water resulting from ice movements might temporarily limit access to certain areas, possibly explaining the temporal patchiness in the occurrence of humpback whale moans within and between months. In addition, humpback whale movements are likely also affected by krill distribution. In winter, krill is known to prefer under-ice habitat to open water, concentrating near specific sea-ice features such as ridges and polynya borders for feeding and shelter . Although we do not know if humpback whales forage in the area off PALAOA, the coastal polynya likely offers plentiful food supply to humpback whales in winter.
The Lofoten Islands in the far north of Norway have always been a world apart, a peninsula-like chain of wild, craggy shards jutting into the Norwegian Sea inside the Arctic Circle. In Norse folklore Lofoten’s long spine of mountains was said to be the haunt of trolls and valkyries (maidens who conducted slain warriors to Valhalla), and its fjords provided dramatic backdrops to some of the grandest of the Viking sagas.
A small wooden boat putters across the glassy expanse of the Vestfjorden, its wake rippling the mirror-perfect reflections of the surrounding mountains. The boat’s skipper, 69-year-old Jan Bjørn Kristiansen, has been sailing these waters for more than 50 years, the past 40 of them in the same weather-beaten vessel, also called Jan Bjørn. The name is fitting, for man and boat have much in common: both are tough, seasoned whalers, quintessentially Norwegian – stubborn, practical, strongly built – and both bear the scars of much hard work at sea.
Eilert and Raymond Nilsen hunting whale on board the Nordfangst. Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII
Over the course of the summer whaling season, Kristiansen will harpoon perhaps 30 or 40 minke whales, butcher their carcasses on deck, and sell the meat dockside to seafood merchants along the coast. Despite there being an international moratorium on commercial whaling, Norwegians such as Kristiansen persist in hunting minke whales – for practical reasons they do so only in Norway’s domestic waters.
A captain prepares to butcher a hunted whale on the Jan Bjorn. Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII
Compared with Lofoten’s cod industry and its 1,000-year history, commercial whaling was a latecomer. ‘Whaling from boats was unknown in my grandfather’s day,’ recalls Oddvar Berntsen, now 83 and the last surviving resident of his fishing village. ‘The boats were just too small. Occasionally the villagers might kill a whale from shore if it came in close, but this was opportunistic, done for food.’ When commercial whaling finally arrived in Norway, it did so with a bang – literally. In the 1860s a Norwegian shipping and whaling magnate named Svend Foyn devised the grenade-tipped harpoon. It was a game-changer, thrusting Norway to the fore of the world’s whaling nations. Norway’s fishermen, however, blamed the new industry for poor catches during the 1870s, since whales were believed to drive schools of fish closer to shore, where fishermen in small boats could catch them. After a series of bitter disputes between fishermen and whalers, Norway became the first nation to ban whaling in its territorial waters, declaring a 10-year moratorium in 1904. From then on, Norway’s commercial whalers sought their quarry in the wider North Atlantic and in the rich waters of the Antarctic.
Children play outside in Rost, Lofoten, Norway. Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII
At about the same time, the Lofoten fishing fleet began shifting from sail to engine. With their newfound mobility, some of the fishermen took up whaling as an additional means of putting food on the table – no small consideration later on during the Great Depression, when both cash and meat were scarce. The banner year for Lofoten’s whalers came in 1958, when 192 boats caught 4,741 minke whales. But change was already in the wind. By 1973, the year when Kristiansen bought his boat, the number of whalers had dropped by nearly half, and numbers have continued falling ever since. The reasons are more economic and social than ecological. The cost of hunting whales is high, and returns are low. Although fashionable restaurants in Oslo still offer whale steak, many Norwegian grocery shoppers regard the rich red meat as Depression-era food, or as un-ecofriendly, or perhaps worse still, as a novelty cuisine for tourists. And because of a variety of factors – including restrictions imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – there is little export market. So although Norway’s government sets an annual quota of 1,286 minke whales, in practice whalers take far fewer (only 533 in 2011).
Humpbacks were endangered decades ago due to whaling, but international protection has helped them rebound so well that they are now listed as a “species of least concern.” The global pre-whaling population is estimated at about 125,000, and today they probably number about 80,000 individuals. Conservation efforts worked, and humpback whales are doing all right now.
A humpback whale has been spotted off the coast of Suffolk five days after one was seen from Norfolk. RSPB staff at the Minsmere reserve near Dunwich said it was first seen at 15:15 GMT, about one mile (1.5km) offshore.
Ian Barthorpe, marketing manager, said experts think the whale was feeding on fish for an hour before it swam north. "It's the first any of us have seen off Minsmere, but we have now heard stories of a humpback up the River Orwell in Ipswich about 100 years ago," he said. A humpback was spotted about two miles out to sea between Winterton and Horsey in Norfolk on Wednesday.
A humpback whale was seen of the Norfolk coast at Winterton last week
Mr Barthorpe watched the whale through binoculars from the hill next to the reserve's visitor centre, while others watched from the National Trust cottages on Dunwich Heath cliff. "It's definitely the same species as the one seen off Norfolk, because experts could tell from the shape of its blow," he said. "We assume it's the same one, but we can't say for sure."