Pre-Deployment Visual Monitoring for Beluga Whales in and Near the Cook Inlet Tidal Energy Project Proposed Deployment Area June-November 2009
Final Report: Study by LGL Alaska Research Associates, Inc., sponsored by Ocean Renewable Power Alaska (ORPC) to monitor beluga whale presence, relative abundance, and behavior off of the north side of Fire Island, Upper Cook Inlet, Alaska.
Cook Inlet is home to some of the greatest tidal energy potential in the United States. It is also home to an endangered population of beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). Successful permitting and operation of an ORPC tidal power project near Fire Island in Upper Cook Inlet will require assessment of the potential and realized effects of the sound footprint and physical presence of tidal turbines on the distribution, relative abundance, and behavior of Cook Inlet beluga whales.
The 2009 study plan to survey for beluga whales in and near the proposed Deployment Area was developed by ORPC and reviewed by regulatory and resource agencies as part of the FERC pre-consultation process. A copy of the approved study plan is included in Appendix A.
The study had two primary objectives:
- Estimate the frequency of occurrence, relative abundance, and surface behavior of beluga whales in and near the Proposed Deployment Area during ice-free months of 2009.
- Provide information to ORPC, NMFS, and FERC on beluga whale sightings and locations relative to the Cook Inlet Tidal Energy Project.
ORPC is collaborating with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to share data from visual and passive acoustic detections of beluga whales in and around the proposed Deployment Area near Fire Island, June through November 2009. Results of this collaboration will be presented in a separate report.