Historic and Current Use of Lower Cook Inlet, Alaska by Beluga Whales
Documentation of the distribution and abundance of marine predators in relation to forage fish and examination of changes in distribution and abundance among the years. This research also provides anecdotal information provided by long-term residents of Cook Inlet on the historical abundance and distribution of belugas within the study area.
Dedicated at-sea surveys for marine birds and mammals conducted in lower Cook Inlet in late July and early August from 1995–1999 failed to locate any beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas). Surveys covered a total of 6,249 linear km and were conducted in both nearshore and offshore habitats. Sightings included 791 individual marine mammals of 10 species. Both historical data and local knowledge indicate that belugas were regularly seen in summer in nearshore and offshore areas of the lower Cook Inlet up until the early 1990s. Diminished presence of belugas in lower Cook Inlet may be a direct function of reduced numbers but may also indicate changes in habitat quality that may inhibit recovery.
Suzann G. Speckman and John F. Piatt. Published in Marine Fisheries Review 62(3), 2000.