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Environmental Impact Statement for Subsistence Harvest Management of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales

July 11, 2003

The stock of beluga whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska, declined by greater than 50 percent between 1994 and 1999 resulting in a depleted determination under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The NOAA Fisheries believes that the subsistence harvest of these whales was the principal factor in the decline.

This EIS evaluates alternates to manage the subsistence harvest of beluga whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska, to promote recovery while still providing for a limited subsistence harvest. Annual harvest levels will be specified through regulation and implemented through a comanagement agreement under section 119 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The effects analyses describe both the direct and indirect effects of the alternatives on the environment. They also describe the cumulative effects of the proposed action (e.g. direct and indirect effects resulting from the harvest) and past, present, or foreseeable future actions on the environment with special emphasis on the beluga whale stock and the subsistence harvest tradition in Cook Inlet. Impacts are disclosed as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The direct and indirect impact of differing harvest level alternatives has been evaluated through a model examining the length of time it would take for the stock to recover under different harvest strategies. The harvest levels range from:

  • no strikes
  • an annual harvest level of one strike per year
  • ¬†an annual harvest level of one strike per year during 2000-2007, increasing to two¬†strikes per year from 2008 to recovery
  • two strikes per year
  • a harvest level that would allow 2 percent of annual recruitment to be taken annually which provides for variable levels of harvest dependent upon the estimated population size
  • the decision of the ALJ of six (6) strikes in four years between 2001-2004. A harvest plan would provide for the cultural and subsistence needs of Alaskan Natives while not significantly extending the time required for this stock to recover.

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on 02/07/2023

Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Subsistence Harvest