Environmental Assessment for the Issuance of a National Marine Fisheries Service Scientific Research Permit and a Permit Amendment for Vessel and Aerial Surveys of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska
NOAA Fisheries proposes to issue a scientific research permit and a permit amendment for takes of marine mammals in the wild, pursuant to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended (MMPA; 16 U.S.C. 1361 et seq.) and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). Permit No. 14210 would be valid for five years from the date of issuance and would authorize LGL Alaska Research Associates to closely approach up to 375 beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) by vessel in Cook Inlet, Alaska annually for photo-identification.
The purposes of the research are to identify individual whales and to provide information about movement patterns, habitat use, survivorship, reproduction, and population size. The amendment to Permit No. 782-1719-07 would authorize NOAA Fisheries National Marine Mammal Laboratory to conduct aerial surveys of the entire population of beluga whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska in 2009.
The purposes of the surveys are to 1) provide distribution information during June and July; 2) compare distribution changes over time; 3) provide group size estimates for calculations of stock size; 4) estimate fractions of calves and juveniles in the population; 5) calibrate and improve survey methodology. The amendment would be valid until the permit expires.