Environmental Assessment, Co-Management Agreement Between the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council for the Year 2001
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is entering into an agreement with the Cook Inlet Marine Mammal Council (CIMMC) for the cooperative management of the Cook Inlet (CI) beluga under section 119 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Public Law 106-553 for the year 2001. The co-management agreement specifies the conditions under which a subsistence harvest on CI beluga whales could be undertaken during the year 2001. The agreement specifies a harvest level of one (1) whale strike
Abundance estimates for the CI beluga whale stock indicated a decline of nearly 50 percent between 1994 and 1998, which caused NMFS to designate the stock as depleted under the MMPA. Federal authority to enter into the co-management agreement for the year 2001 derives from Public Law 106-553, which prohibits the hunting of CI beluga whales except pursuant to a cooperative agreement between NMFS and Alaska Native organizations (ANOs); and Section 119 of the MMPA which allows the Secretary to enter into cooperative agreements with ANOs to conserve marine mammals and provide co-management of subsistence use by Alaska Natives.
Because the CI beluga whale stock is depleted, any long-term, Federally-approved management plan that includes harvest is considered a major action subject to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Therefore, NMFS is separately preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on conservation actions from 2001 and beyond, including proposed regulations to Federally regulate the subsistence harvest of CI beluga whales by Alaska Natives after 2001 and, thereby, to recover this stock.