Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Research: Study of Physical and Biological Factors that Impact the Beluga’s Population
Final Project Report
The objective of the study is to collect and analyze various physical and biological data from Cook Inlet (CI), in particular within the Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB) and study the impact of environmental and climatic parameters on the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale (CIBW) population. The motivation for this study comes from the fact that the CIBW (Delphinapterus leucas) is genetically distinct from the other beluga stocks around Alaska, and is geographically isolated and confined to its habitat in the Inlet, thus the necessity to understand the environmental factors that may prevent recovering of the CIBW population (~300 today, compared with 1000s estimated in the past). As a result, CIBW were listed as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act in 2008. Our study aimed at better understanding of the beluga movement, survival strategies and interaction with the environment.