In this episode of the Wild for Change podcast, Teresa Becher and Mandy Migura from the Alaska Wildlife Alliance discuss the endangered beluga whales living in the Cook Inlet. Teresa is the beluga whale monetary coordinator, responsible for coordinating monitoring sessions and being an expert on beluga whale behavior in the area. Mandy is the deputy director and Marine program officer for Alaska Wildlife Alliance, and she coordinates a group of nonprofits advocating for the recovery of the beluga whales. They discuss the decline in the beluga whale population and the major threats they face.
The beluga whales in the Cook Inlet are a unique and endangered population. They are geographically and genetically distinct from other beluga whale stocks, meaning they do not intermix with other belugas. If the belugas in Cook Inlet disappear, they will not be repopulated by other belugas.The population of beluga whales in Cook Inlet began to decline, but it is hard to determine exactly when this decline started. Surveys were not regularly conducted until the early 1990s. Anecdotal reports suggest that there used to be a large number of belugas in the area, but the first scientific survey in 1979 estimated a population of 1,297 belugas. Since then, the population has declined, with the most recent estimate being around 300 belugas.
The major threats to the beluga whales include the cumulative effects of multiple stressors, catastrophic events like oil spills, noise, reduction in prey, disease, habitat loss and degradation, unauthorized harassment or poaching, pollution, predation, and subsistence hunting. These threats have contributed to the decline in the population and led to the beluga whales being listed as an endangered species.Efforts are being made by organizations like Alaska Wildlife Alliance and the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership to monitor and protect the beluga whales in the Cook Inlet. Public awareness, research, and advocacy play crucial roles in the conservation and recovery of this unique population of belugas.
- Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas)
- Beluga Whale Sanctuary
- Newshound: Beluga whales
- Animal Hub: Whales
- Alaska Wildlife Alliance Official website
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