Members of the public are integral to helping NOAA Fisheries and our partners study and conserve Cook Inlet belugas.
Cook Inlet Beluga Whales
Beluga whales are an iconic marine mammal in Alaska and an important part of Cook Inlet’s regional ecosystem. Following a rapid decline in abundance during the 1980s -1990s, the federal government designated the Cook Inlet beluga population as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 2002 and endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2008.
NOAA Fisheries, along with our partners, are committed to recovering the population and multiple research efforts are ongoing to reach that goal.
How You Can Help
Members of the public are integral to helping NOAA Fisheries and our partners study and conserve Cook Inlet belugas. Following are five things you can do to help:
1. Report sightings of live Cook Inlet beluga whales to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo ID Project
2. Report live and dead stranded beluga whales
The most important information to collect is the date, location of stranding (including latitude and longitude), number of animals, and species. Take pictures from different angles if you are able. Please don't move or touch the animal.
- NOAA Fisheries Alaska Statewide 24-hour Stranding Hotline: (877) 925-7773 or (877) 9-AKR-PRD
- Alaska SeaLife Center Stranding Hotline: (888) 774-7325
- Report a Death or Injury of a Marine Mammal During Commercial Fishing Operations
NOTE: If the stranded animal is a walrus, sea otter, or polar bear, call the Marine Mammals Management Office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage ((800) 362-5148 FREE, business hours) or the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward ((888) 774-7325, 24-hrs).
3. Participate in outreach events and citizen science programs
- Become a volunteer citizen scientist with the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Program and join NOAA biologists and our partners in monitoring beluga presence and behavior each spring and fall.
- Join us for our Belugas Count! event every September: meet beluga experts from NOAA and our partners, learn about the beluga whales living right in your backyard, and help look for them at monitoring stations throughout Cook Inlet.
4. Practice Cook Inlet beluga-friendly boat-operating practices
Scan for belugas and assume they may be present, even if they're not visible
Reduce boat speed to 5 knots or less in lower reaches or rivers and mouths during key beluga feeding times
If you encounter beluga whales:
- Delay launching your boat until they leave the area.
- Keep at least 300 feet away at all times.
- Steer clear of their path and go into neutral as safety allows.
- Allow them to pass by your vessel before you proceed to navigate rivers
Learn more about responsible marine mammal viewing practices on the Alaska Marine Mammal Viewing Guidelines and Regulations page.
5. If you see a beluga whale being harassed, report the incident to NOAA Fisheries
Call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964 to report a federal marine resource violation. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone in the United States. If possible obtain video or photographs of the potential harassment. You may also contact your closest NOAA Office of Law Enforcement field during regular business hours.