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The Latest: Feds hope humpback talks will form plan, funding

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2009 file photo, boaters and fishermen watch as a group of up to six humpback whales feed on herring near Ketchikan, Alaska. Over the past several years researchers have noticed a decline in the number of North Pacific humpback whales showing up in their traditional breeding grounds around Hawaii. The missing humpbacks migrate each autumn from Alaska, where they feed during the summer months, to Hawaii, where they mate and give birth during the winter. (Tom Miller/Ketchikan Daily News via AP, file)

HONOLULU (AP) — The Latest on meetings among U.S. officials and researchers about a decline in humpback whale sightings in Hawaii (all times local):

1:15 p.m.

Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hope meetings about a decline in humpback whale sightings in Hawaii will help them to form a plan and get future funding.

Marc Lammers, research coordinator for NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary says researchers agree that a change in food sources in Alaska is driving the change, but officials don’t know if that change applies more broadly in the North Pacific.

NOAA’s Susan Pultz, chief of conservation planning and rulemaking in the Pacific island region, said the meetings are a starting point for possible future action.

Pultz says there is “some sense of urgency” about the missing whales and that the meetings will help officials identify actions they need to take going forward, including putting forward proposals for funding.

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11:40 a.m.

Federal officials say research into the decline of humpback whale sightings in Hawaii points to a disruption in the food chain that is likely caused by warmer ocean temperatures in the whales’ feeding grounds in Alaska.

U.S. and international researchers, wildlife managers and federal officials are meeting Wednesday in Honolulu to discuss the decline.

Christine Gabriele, a federal wildlife biologist who monitors humpbacks at Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, says data presented Tuesday shows a strong correlation between warming oceans and the missing whales.

Three factors warmed the water in Alaska starting in 2014, the same year scientists noticed a decline in sightings in Hawaii.

There was a switch in an oscillating Pacific current, a warm El Nino period, and a massive “blob” of warm water in the region.

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