NOAA seeks comments on critical habitat designation for Cook Inlet Beluga Whales
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / 50 CFR Part 226 / Endangered and Threatened Species: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Designate Critical Habitat for Cook Inlet Beluga Whales
SUMMARY: We, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), will be designating critical habitat for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The designation will involve areas within Cook Inlet, Alaska. This advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) identifies issues for consideration and evaluation and solicits comments.
The beluga whale is a northern hemisphere species, ranging primarily over the Arctic Ocean and some adjoining seas, where it inhabits fjords, estuaries, and shallow water in Arctic and subarctic oceans. Belugas generally occur in shallow, coastal waters, and while some populations make long seasonal migrations, Cook Inlet belugas reside in Cook Inlet year round. There is obvious and repeated use of certain habitats by Cook Inlet beluga whales. Intensive aerial abundance surveys, and satellite tagging studies, document high use of Knik Arm, Turnagain Arm, Chickaloon Bay and the Susitna River delta areas of the upper Inlet. Photo from NOAA.
LINKS: For recent species status information, consult NOAA's 2008 Status Review and Extinction Risk Assessment of Cook Inlet Belugas and the 2008 supplement.