NOAA seeks public comment on beluga whale recovery plan

Beluga whale pod. Photo courtesy NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

NOAA Fisheries is seeking public comment on a draft recovery plan for Cook Inlet beluga whales.

According to a release from NOAA, the plan will structure efforts to bring the whales back up to a healthy population size. Once there, the hope is to remove them from the federal endangered species list.

The plan includes a list of criteria that would have to be met to take the whales off the list and declare them a recovered species.

Jim Balsiger is the regional administrator for NOAA. He says the plan was made with the best available science.

It focuses on ten types of threats to the population and assesses the severity of each threat.

They include natural disasters, oil spills, mass strandings, noise pollution, and other stressors, both natural and human-caused.

Cook Inlet beluga whales have been on the endangered species list since 2008. Since 2011, the inlet has been designated a critical habitat for the species.

According to NOAA Fisheries, the population is estimated to be only 340 animals and there has been a steady decline in the species over the last decade.

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