By AUDREY McAVOY
HONOLULU (AP) - A group of Hawaii fishermen is asking the federal government to take northern Pacific humpback whales off the endangered species list.
Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance for Conservation and Tradition Inc. filed a petition to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month.
It says humpback whale numbers have grown more than 10 times in the northern Pacific since the international community banned commercial whaling in 1966.
The North Pacific has more than 21,000 humpback whales today, compared with about 1,400 in the mid-1960s. But environmentalists say ship strikes and fishing gear entanglements still threaten the whales.
Angela Somma, NOAA Fisheries endangered species division chief, says the petition is the first seeking to delist humpback whales since the animals were classified as endangered in 1970.