Beluga Whales in Alaska
A half-dozen conservation groups, including the Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council, recently filed a request in Washington, D.C. federal court to challenge the state of Alaska in its ongoing lawsuit which seeks to overturn the listing of beluga whales in the Cook Inlet as endangered.
The Natural Resources Defense Council explains that the Cook Inlet belugas live in one of the most heavily populated and fastest growing regions in Alaska. As a result, the belugas’ health and habitat is threatened by human-caused pollution and development.
The beluga population has been separated from other belugas by the Alaska Peninsula for generations, and is now a genetically distinct population.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the state of Alaska argues that the beluga whales don’t need to be listed as endangered because the population in the Cook Inlet has stabilized and conservation efforts already in place are working. Conservation groups are calling the government’s bluff however, by pointing out that in the late 1970’s the Cook Inlet beluga population was estimated at 1300, while it currently stands at only 321 whales.
The National Marine Fisheries Service conducted a review in 2008 that determined the belugas will go extinct if nothing changes. Thus, they are in desperate need of the extra protection that endangered status provides. However, Alaskan state officials maintain that the endangered listing will have a negative impact on the ongoing $750 million project to expand the Port of Anchorage where the products and goods for about 80% of Alaskans arrive, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Alaska is a state that is world-renowned for its beauty and biodiversity. Let’s hope that the government will come to realize that the most valuable Alaskan assets are wilderness and wildlife.