Let’s wait a bit for delisting

We get uncomfortable when folks start proposing that humpback whales should be taken off the endangered species list.

Humpback whales are an impressive lot – intelligent, mostly gentle creatures that visit Hawaii’s waters each winter to give birth to calves and mate. According to a recent Maui News story, their numbers have grown in the Northern Pacific Ocean from less than 1,200 in 1970 to more than 18,000 today.

Some 12,000 of those humpbacks visit Hawaii each winter.

The Hawaii Fisherman’s Alliance for Conservation and Tradition argues that they are no longer endangered and that they should be delisted to “maintain the integrity of the Endangered Species Act.” Their president, Phil Fernandez of the Big Island, says the whales are “fully recovered.”

The group argues that federal law and the international whaling commission will continue to provide the humpbacks with plenty of protection, and continuing to have them on the Endangered Species List is a redundancy and “should be reserved for other species that are threatened with extinction.”

Greg Kaufman of the Pacific Whale Foundation said of the effort to delist the whales: “We’re well on our way to full recovery . . . but in sum of what we know, it’s premature.”

We would add that in the scope of an ocean’s lifetime, 40 to 50 years is a very brief snapshot. If the whale population continues to thrive and grow for another 10 to 20 years, then the designation as endangered might be worth revisiting.

Until then, we see no harm to any other species by continuing the endangered listing for the humpbacks. Let’s wait a bit longer and make sure their recovery is complete and permanent.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.