Audubon's not just for the birds! We work to defend many important wildlife populations in Alaska, including polar bears, Cook Inlet beluga whales, brown bears, and other significant species.
New article in the Journal of Wildlife Management
Audubon Alaska Senior Scientist Emeritus John Schoen co-authored Trends in Intensive Management of Alaska’s Grizzly Bears, 1980–2010, published in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management.
Cook Inlet Beluga Whales
The Cook Inlet beluga whale is genetically distinct and geographically isolated from other beluga whale populations in Alaska. Scientists estimate that 1,300 belugas inhabited Cook Inlet as recently as the 1980s. Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) estimates that the Cook Inlet population numbers only 321 whales. Unregulated subsistence harvests likely caused their decline, but there is little information to explain why the population has not rebounded after unregulated harvests stopped.
NMFS listed the Cook Inlet beluga under the Endangered Species Act in October 2008. Establishing “Critical Habitat” is the next step needed to provide additional, precautionary management for this endangered population of beluga whales.
If beluga whales disappear from Cook Inlet, the likelihood of reestablishing a beluga population here is highly doubtful, and the ecological role they play in the ecosystem would be lost forever. If you want belugas to continue to exist in Cook Inlet, now is the time to speak up and let NMFS know your opinion.
Read the comments Audubon Alaska submitted to the National Marine Fisheries Service supporting critical habitat designation for Cook Inlet belugas.
- Map of proposed Critical Habitat areas for Cook Inlet belugas.
- Proposed rule for Critical Habitat designation.
- NMFS’s website on Cook Inlet belugas, including links to news releases, an economic analysis, and Critical Habitat shapefiles.
- Opinion article by Audubon Alaska’s John Schoen about Cook Inlet beluga listing.