Final RIR/4(b)(2) Preparatory Assessment/FRFA for the Critical Habitat Designation of Cook Inlet Beluga Whale
Evaluation of the economic, socioeconomic, and other costs and benefits of designating critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale.
This Final Regulatory Impact Review/Section 4(b)(2) Preparatory Assessment/Final Regulatory Flexibility Act Analysis addresses the designation of critical habitat in waters of Cook Inlet, Alaska for the population of Delphinapterus leucas (Cook Inlet beluga whale) under authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The purpose of this Final Review/4(b)(2) Preparatory Assessment/Analysis is to evaluate the economic, socioeconomic, and other costs and benefits of designating critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale. This document will assist the Secretary of Commerce in determining whether the benefits of excluding any particular area from the designation outweigh the benefits of including it. This information allows the National Marine Fisheries Service to address the requirements of Executive Orders 12866 and 13211, and the Regulatory Flexibility Act, as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.
The population of Cook Inlet beluga whales has rapidly declined from an estimated stock of 1,300 animals in 1979. Abundance surveys, conducted between 1994 and 2008, have revealed the population estimates to range from a high of 653 animals in 1994 to a low of 278 animals in 2005; the most recent survey (from 2008) estimates the population at 375 animals.