Photo Credit: National Geographic
Despite opposition from Governor Sarah Palin, last week the Bush Administration added Alaska's Cook Inlet beluga whales to the endangered species list. The population has decreased from around 1,300 in the 70s to the 375 or so present today. More below the fold.Because belugas in the Cook Inlet are now on the endangered species list, researchers can begin a serious effort to find what is threatening the whales, including human behavior which may be curtailed to protect the belugas' environment.
Some contributors to the population decline include hunting, killer whale predation, underwater noise, and the loss of salmon in the area (a key fish in the belugas' diet). The whales in Cook Inlet are isolated from the four other whale populations in their region, none of whom are on the endangered species list.
Governor Sarah Palin opposed the measure to add the whales to the endangered species list. Issuing a 95 page effort to keep them off the list, Palin said in a statement last week,
The State of Alaska has had serious concerns about the low population of belugas in Cook Inlet for many years. However, we believe that this endangered listing is premature.
The belugas are the second Alaskan animal Palin has opposed putting on the endangered species list. She also asked federal courts to overturn a decision earlier this year to declare polar bears endangered.