Cook Inlet belugas

Photo courtesy of Chandera Tolley

Cook Inlet belugas don’t have a lot in common with cryptocurrency, the online dollar that’s becoming increasingly popular around the world.

But a 14-year-old in Puerto Rico is using her digital art, and the online currency, to raise tens of thousands of real-life dollars for beluga conservation in Alaska.


NOAA

Those who live close to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers know belugas sometimes feed there. But it’s been a mystery how many whales actually travel through those waterways, particularly in the spring.

This year, a large team of volunteer observers counted for the first time how many Cook Inlet belugas passed through the rivers between March and May. They counted just over 220 belugas.

NOAA

A federal permit allowing Hilcorp to drill in Cook Inlet does not account for the harm vessel noise could pose to endangered belugas there, according to a decision yesterday from a District Court judge.

Cook Inletkeeper and the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the permit in a 2019 lawsuit. Judge Sharon Gleason sided with those groups this week, ruling NOAA Fisheries did not account for how noise from Hilcorp’s tug boats would cause harm to belugas when it authorized the company to work there.

Debbie Boege-Tobin

Cook Inlet belugas used to follow salmon through the Kenai River in the summer. Now, they’re mostly just spotted in other seasons.

Researchers from NOAA Fisheries aren’t sure why. It’s one of many questions they’re asking about the endangered population to better understand why the belugas aren’t rebounding and how the agency can support their recovery.

A study featuring a relatively new DNA sampling technique might help them find answers.

NOAA

The beluga population in Cook Inlet is not bouncing back and scientists are trying to figure out why.

First, they need to know more about the population. A key part of that is knowing how old the whales are.