Cook Inlet Critical Habitat

Cook Inlet Beluga Whales; Numbers Still Declining

Resources - NOAA: October 6, 2009

Despite being placed on the Endangered Species List back in 2008, the numbers of beluga whales in Cook Inlet are still on the decline.

NOAA has just completed their latest counts of the beluga whales in Cook Inlet and the results were not what we had hoped to here. “The endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale population is not showing recovery, according to NOAA Fisheries Service’s latest annual survey and estimate. NOAA scientists, analyzing recent population estimates, find a continued trend of gradual population decline.”

The study was conducted between June 2 and June 9, when researchers from NOAA flew over Cook Inlet visually counting the beluga whales and taking photographs and video of them at this time. Once completed the recorded data was studied to provide a more accurate estimate of the beluga whale population in Cook Inlet at this point. That estimate has come back at 321, doun from the 375 of the past couple years.

NOAA Fisheries Service is scheduled to propose designating areas of critical habitat for Cook Inlet beluga whales later in October 2009.

In 1979 there were 1,300 beluga whales in cook inlet, today that number is estimated at 321.

Estimated population of Cook Inlet beluga whales from 1994 to present:

1994: 653
1995: 491
1996: 594
1997: 440
1998: 347
1999: 367
2000: 435
2001: 386
2002: 313
2003: 357
2004: 366
2005: 278
2006: 302
2007: 375
2008: 375
2009: 321