Distribution of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales in Winter - Final Report
Collaborative report by the U.S. Department of the Interior Minerals Management Service and NOAA Fisheries
Beluga Whales (Delphinapterus leucas) commonly occur in Cook Inlet during summer and autumn (May through October). However, little information is available on their distribution during the winter. Ten aerial surveys were conducted in Cook inlet from 12 February through 14 March 1997. Some surveys were extended to include the lower Kenai Peninsula, Shelikof Strait, Kodiak Island, and Yakutat Bay areas. most of the survey effort was devoted to search surveys along and within about 3 km of coastlines; however, sets of parallel transects were flown in Cook Inlet, Kamishak Bay, and Yakutat Bay. A total of 160 individual beluga whale sightings were recorded during 9,406 km of survey effort. Of these sightings, 150 were recorded in the middle portion of Cook Inlet, from the west side of Kalgin Island to just north of the East Foreland, and 10 were recorded near the Hubbard Glacier in Yakutat Bay (60º01' N, 139º35' W). The surveys also recorded four other species of cetacea (harbor porpoise, Phocoena phocoena, 35 individuals; Dall's porpoise, Phoceonoides dalli, 11 individuals; killer whale, Orcinus orca, 3 individuals; and fin whale, Balaenoptera physalus, 3 individuals, two species of pinnipedia (Steller's sea lion, Eumetopias jubatus, 594 individuals; harbor seal, Phoca vitulina, 440 individuals), and sea otter (Enhydra lutris, 784 individuals).