October 18, 2008

NOAA: Cook Inlet Beluga Whales Endangered

The Cook Inlet beluga whale population near Anchorage, Alaska, was placed on the U.S. endangered list, federal marine officials said Friday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said current protections have not been successful in recovering the beluga whale population.

NOAA's Fisheries Service said listing the Cook Inlet beluga whales means any federal agency that funds, authorizes or carries out new projects or activities that may affect the whales in the area must first consult

with the agency to determine the potential effects on the whales.

Scientific surveys show the Cook Inlet beluga population declined nearly 50 percent between 1994 and 1998. Estimates have varied from a high of 653 belugas in 1994 to a low of 278 belugas in 2005. NOAA estimates there were 375 belugas in both 2007 and 2008.

The agency said the final rule on this decision will likely be published in the Federal Register on

Oct. 22.