Assessment of the Prey Availability and Oil-related Contaminants in Winter Habitat of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales
Final Report: Trawl Surveys and Laboratory Analyses (2012-2013). Prepared for: The Kenai Peninsula Borough
In 2011, Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council submitted a proposal to the Kenai Peninsula Borough to address categories of research needs expressed by the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Conservation Plan (NOAA Fisheries, 2008), as well as in the KPB Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Research Study guidance documents in their call for proposals. The intent of those initiatives was to identify potential threats that might be impeding recovery of the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales. The KPB identified priority information useful for the management of Cook Inlet beluga whales (Delphinus leucas), with emphasis on understanding or mitigating factors inhibiting the species’ recovery. Specifically, their solicitation requested studies where the scope of work would address at least one of the following objectives or actions: 1) improve knowledge of Cook Inlet beluga whales to determine factors that are limiting recovery; 2) refine knowledge of beluga habitat requirements; and/or 3) evaluate the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the beluga habitat.
Our study was designed to assess biological diversity, abundance, and hydrocarbon contaminants of potential beluga whale prey items in beluga winter habitat areas. Our study, Assessment of the Prey Availability and Oil-related Contaminants in Winter Habitat of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales, was a collaboration between Cook Inlet RCAC, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.