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NOAA Fisheries and Partners to Hold 5th Annual Belugas Count September 23

September 15, 2023

Alaska’s largest one-day marine mammal educational event to celebrate 50th anniversary of Endangered Species Act.

Belugas Count logo

NOAA Fisheries and partners invite the public to celebrate the 5th Annual Belugas Count! and the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act on Saturday, September 23. 

Belugas Count! is a free, family-friendly educational celebration of the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale. These white whales live in Cook Inlet year-round. The latest population estimate for the species is 331. 

a group of people with telescope and binoculars watch for beluga whales
A group of people with telescopes and binoculars watch for beluga whales. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

This year, the head of NOAA Fisheries will be in Anchorage to participate in the event. “This is my first time participating in Belugas Count!, and I am so honored,” said NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Janet Coit. “It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and the opportunity to see iconic Cook Inlet beluga whales is rare and special. Cook Inlet is an amazing ecosystem and it’s no wonder these fascinating white whales draw people from around the world to Alaska specifically for this event.”

The agency’s lead for marine mammals, Office of Protected Resources Director Kim Damon Randall, will also be in attendance. Both Coit and Damon-Randall will make remarks in Anchorage. NOAA Fisheries Alaska Deputy Regional Administrator Jamal Moss will make opening remarks in Kenai, where he will also present NOAA Fisheries’ 2023 Partner in the Spotlight award to Teresa Becher, a volunteer with the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Program. 

Belugas Count!

Belugas Count! brings together members of the public to focus on conserving the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale, fostering local pride, awareness, and stewardship. It’s a collaboration among federal and state agencies, local and national organizations, and individuals. 

Belugas Count! is free and open to the public. No registration is required. The event includes two separate happenings:  

10 a.m. -1 p.m. Beluga Viewing

Visit multiple viewing stations along the shores of Cook Inlet from 

Anchorage to Homer and help on-site experts look for endangered belugas. Viewing station hours vary by location and station.  Please bring your own binoculars and cameras. 

1-5 p.m. Beluga Festivals

Join one of our afternoon festivals:

  • Kincaid Outdoor Center, Anchorage, Alaska
  • Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Kenai, Alaska

Activities include live presentations about belugas and other 

Alaska endangered species by experts and aquaria, meet and greets with beluga scientists, and free, fun interactive activities.

You can stay up-to-date on all things Belugas Count! on Facebook.


Beluga whale calf next to adult beluga whales
Beluga whale calf next to adult beluga whales. Credit: NOAA Fisheries

Endangered Beluga Whales

In 2008, NOAA Fisheries listed Cook Inlet beluga whales as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Scientists estimate there are about 330 beluga whales in Cook Inlet. 

NOAA Fisheries has designated Cook Inlet beluga whales as one of nine “Species in the Spotlight.” These are 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! is an event designed to inform and build that capacity. 

Belugas Count! partners 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
  • Anchorage Parks & 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
  • Havens Studio
  • Hilcorp
  • HDR
  • Kenai Peninsula College
  • Kenai Watershed Forum
  • Matson
  • Mystic Aquarium
  • Native Village of Tyonek
  • SeaWorld
  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Tebughna School
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • and committed individuals

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on September 15, 2023