April 2011

Cook Inlet belugas win much-needed critical habitat

Earlier this month, the National Marine Fisheries Service finalized its ruling to designate critical habitat for Alaska's Cook Inlet beluga whales. More than 3,000 square miles of the Cook Inlet will be listed as critical habitat for the whales, whose numbers have plummeted in the past 30 years, from 1,300 to around 312 today. Under the Endangered Species Act, federal agencies must carefully review any actions that may "adversely modify" this critical habitat. Cook Inlet belugas live in one of the most industrialized regions in Alaska, and are constantly threatened by pollution from partially treated sewage, oil and gas production, ship strikes and noise pollution. NRDC and our environmental partners have been fighting for years to protect the dwindling population of belugas.