NOAA Fisheries is releasing its recovery plan for the Cook Inlet beluga whale, which will guide efforts to recover the species to a point where they can be removed from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.
“This plan is a roadmap for how NOAA Fisheries and our partners can address threats to Cook Inlet belugas and work together towards recovery,” said Jon Kurland, the agency’s Assistant Regional Administrator for Protected Resources.
The recovery plan identifies and assesses ten potential threats, and indicates the risk each threat poses to Cook Inlet beluga whales. Threats of high concern include catastrophic events (such as natural disasters, spills, and mass strandings), in-water noise, and the cumulative and synergistic effects of multiple stressors. The plan also identifies criteria that could lead to reclassifying Cook Inlet beluga whales from endangered to threatened status, and ultimately to delisting due to recovery.
NOAA Fisheries listed Cook Inlet beluga whales as endangered in 2008 and designated critical habitat for the population in 2011. NOAA Fisheries estimates the population of Cook Inlet beluga whales to be just 340 animals, and the 10-year population trend continues to show declines.
The Cook Inlet beluga whale is one of eight endangered species that NOAA Fisheries has identified as part of the nationwide Species in the Spotlight initiative to stabilize population declines and focus resources on the species that are most at risk of extinction.
The recovery strategy will be periodically modified and updated as new information becomes available. The plan was developed with assistance of a recovery team comprised of scientific experts who were advised by a panel of stakeholders.
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