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Its business verses the beluga in Alaska

January 1, 2010 US Federal Government intends to list Cook Inlet, in Alaska as critical habitat for the endangered beluga whale under the US Endangered Species Act. Cook Inlet’s belugas were estimated to number about 1,300 in the early 1980s, but the population plummeted to around 350 in the late 1990s, probably due to local hunting. Local hunting was restricted in 1999 but the population hasn’t rebounded, probably becasue of other impacts and threats to these animals in this region.

The US fisheries service listed the whales as endangered in 2008, and a few weeks ago proposed designating more than 3,000 square miles of Cook Inlet as critical habitat for the belugas. The critical areas cover all of Anchorage and Mat-Su Borough’s tidal waters and extend down Cook Inlet past the City of Kenai. The habitat also includes parts of Kachemak Bay near Homer and areas across the inlet from the Kenai Peninsula.  The area would encompass more than a third of Cook Inlet, mostly the northern portion off Anchorage, and will importantly include shallow areas where the belugas spend summer feeding and nursing their young. It also overlays areas heavily used for including oil and gas production, commercial shipping, fishing and municipal wastewater discharge.

Brad Smith,  NOAA biologist has commented:

“The purposes of the Endangered Species Act are to prevent the extinction of species and to foster their conservation and recovery so, what we’re trying to do is get in now before the situation becomes any worse and hopefully take some activities or actions that can initiate their recovery”

However this week local mayors have taken moves against this proposal, believing that the listing will cripple the Alaskan economy. They hope to present a united front to oppose the habitat designation because of its impact on other projects … like more oil and gas presumably!


One Comment leave one →
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