Every September, Alaska residents and visitors gather along the shores of Cook Inlet, joining numerous marine mammal experts to look for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale.
Every September, thousands of Alaska residents and visitors gather along the shores of Cook Inlet, joining numerous marine mammal experts from government agencies, universities, non-profit organizations, Tribes, industry, zoos, and aquaria across the country to look for, count, and learn about the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale.
This free family-friendly celebration, hosted by NOAA Fisheries and dozens of partners, is Alaska’s largest one-day marine mammal educational event, aimed at raising awareness of the plight of this special whale, which is found only in Cook Inlet, and sharing how the public—local, national, and internationally—can support its recovery.
Belugas Count! 2023 will be held on Saturday, September 23 and will celebrate both the 5th annual Belugas Count! as well as the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
To keep up to date on the latest event information, follow us on the Belugas Count! Facebook page and visit the NOAA Fisheries 2023 Belugas Count! event page.
This year's event includes:
A poster art design contest, open to Alaska residents and those living in Alaska, ages 12+. The winner’s art will be featured on printed event posters, NOAA websites, and social media. The 2023 poster design contest winner, Barbara Lake of Juneau, Alaska, was announced on August 10, 2023.
- Multiple publicly-accessible beluga viewing stations throughout Cook Inlet, staffed by beluga experts from throughout the U.S. click here for an interactive map of event stations
- A free afternoon celebration with interactive educational activities for kids and adults, booths, and live presentations by beluga experts and aquaria.
- Virtual engagement and education for remote participants.
What is Belugas Count!?
Belugas Count! is an annual celebration that brings together members of the public to focus on the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale, fostering local pride, awareness, and stewardship. The NOAA Fisheries-led event is a collaboration among government agencies, universities, non-profit organizations, Tribes, industry, zoos and aquaria across the country, as well as individuals.
Belugas Count! occurs every September, typically on a Saturday. The event is free and open to the public, no registration is required.
Why Belugas Count!?
In October 2008, NOAA Fisheries listed Cook Inlet beluga whales as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. This population continues a downward trend. Scientists estimate that there are currently about 331 beluga whales remaining in the population, which is genetically distinct from other beluga populations and is only found in Cook Inlet, Alaska.
Cook Inlet beluga whales are one of NOAA Fisheries’ nine “Species in the Spotlight” — species in need of a concerted effort by individuals, agencies, groups, tribes, institutions, and organizations large and small to survive. The goal is to have partners and interested members of the public work together to recover this species. Belugas Count! brings people and organizations together to cultivate enthusiasm, awareness, and collaborative relationships for Cook Inlet beluga recovery, supporting the Species in the Spotlight initiative.
Partners and Supporters
Belugas Count! would not be possible without the commitment and contributions of many entities, past and present. Present partners and supporters include: Alaska Beluga Monitoring Program, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Alaska Sealife Center, Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Alaska Zoo, Anchorage Parks and Recreation, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility, Beluga Whale Alliance, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Georgia Aquarium, Glacier Oil & Gas, Hilcorp, Kenai Peninsula College, Knik Tribe, Matson, Mystic Aquarium, Native Village of Tyonek, SeaWorld, Shedd Aquarium, Tebughna School, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service.
Interested in becoming an event partner or supporter? Please email the NOAA Fisheries’ Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Recovery Coordinator.
For the latest news on Belugas Count!, follow us on the Belugas Count! Facebook page.
Successful recovery of Cook Inlet beluga whales requires the help and support of the entire greater Cook Inlet community. To learn how you can help, visit NOAA Fisheries’ Help Belugas webpage.