Cook Inlet

Redoubt Reporter file photo

The Kenai River drainage will officially close to king salmon fishing Friday due to low numbers.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the closure on Wednesday, set to last through July 31, which would be the end of the king salmon fishing season on the Kenai anyway. The river was already restricted to catch-and-release only due to low returns, but the closure goes a step further and prohibits bait everywhere in the river from the mouth upstream to Skilak Lake.

Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Alaskans pretty well know at this point that king salmon are in trouble. Biologists been looking into why for about a decade now, without a single smoking gun. And that seems to the way it’s going to be—no single answer.

A group of researchers led through the University of Alaska published a study this week probing a little more into the freshwater part of the lives of king salmon, also known as chinook. They focused on fifteen streams in the Cook Inlet basin, from the Chulitna in the north to the Anchor River in the south, to find some answers about how what happens in the freshwater affects king salmon survival. And, like other studies have shown, it’s complicated.

Oil and gas producer Hilcorp is continuing its Alaska expansion with three new exploration leases in the Cook Inlet basin.

Hilcorp, which operates most of the platforms in the inlet as well as a number of onshore gas wells and the cross-inlet pipeline, won three leases in the state’s areawide Cook Inlet and Alaska Peninsula oil and gas lease auction this week. The three leases cost the company about $178,000, with an average price of $21.43 per acre.

NOAA

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service to continue studying Cook Inlet beluga whales. The study will include more detailed information about the whales’ habitat and diet.

The Cook Inlet population of belugas is classified as endangered by the federal government. The most recent count estimated that there are about 279 of them left, which is down from the 2016 count of 328. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why the whales are declining, but the Fish and Game study is intended to help shed some more light on that question.

Alaska Division of Oil and Gas

A Cook Inlet oil and gas producer has asked the state for permission to suspend operations in two area until at least April 2021.

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