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Aerial Surveys of Belugas in Cook Inlet, Alaska 2005-2012

May 27, 2022

Photographic aerial surveys of belugas whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in Cook Inlet, Alaska, from 2005 through 2012.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska August 2005

NOAA Fisheries conducted a photographic aerial survey of belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) in Cook Inlet, Alaska, August 11-12,  2005. The survey was flown in a twin-engine, high-wing aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) on a trackline 1.4 km offshore, consistent with annual surveys for beluga abundance in Cook Inlet since 1993. The sum of the aerial counts was 236 belugas for August 11 and 277 belugas for August 12, numbers that represent a rough index of abundance uncorrected for missed whales. The counts from August 2005 were higher than uncorrected estimates from June during the past seven years. 

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska May 2006

NOAA Fisheries conducted an aerial survey of Cook Inlet, Alaska, May 2-3, 2006 with the intention of documenting beluga distribution and recording calf sightings relative to other seasons. Although the total number of belugas seen (43 whales in two days) is small, no calves were observed, suggesting that this May survey preceded the calving season.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska August 2007

NOAA Fisheries conducted an aerial survey of the beluga population in northern Cook Inlet, Alaska, August 1-2, 2007. Consistent with NOAA Fisheries surveys conducted since 1993, the August 2007 survey was flown in a high-wing, twin-engine aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) and a speed of 185 km/hr (100 kt). The intent of the survey was to obtain high-resolution video of each beluga group to determine age structure and number of calves.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska August 2008

NOAA Fisheries conducted an aerial survey of the beluga population in northern Cook Inlet, Alaska, August 12-14, 2008. Consistent with previous surveys by NOAA Fisheries made each year since 1993, the August 2008 survey was flown in a high-wing, twin-engine aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) and a speed of 185 km/hr (100 kt). The goal of the surveys was to obtain high-resolution video of each group of belugas to determine age structure and number of calves.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska September and October 2008

NOAA Fisheries conducted two aerial surveys focused primarily in lower Cook Inlet, Alaska, September 19-20 and October 22, 2008, in an exploratory effort to look for belugas in Kamishak Bay. Each survey was flown in a twin-engine, high-wing Aero Commander aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) and speed of 185 km/hr (100 kt), consistent with NOAA Fisheries’ surveys of Cook Inlet conducted each year since 1993. The primary intent of these surveys was to document beluga groups in Kamishak Bay. Belugas were not observed in lower Cook Inlet during either survey. Belugas were found in the upper inlet in Turnagain Arm, Chickaloon Bay, and Knik Arm. The location of a dead beluga stranded in Turnagain Arm was confirmed during the September 19 survey.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet Alaska August 2009

NOAA Fisheries conducted an aerial survey of the beluga population in northern Cook Inlet, Alaska, August 11-13, 2009. The goal of the surveys was to obtain high-resolution video of each group of belugas to determine age structure (white relative to gray individuals and dark gray calves) and number of calves and to compare some of these results with boat-based photo-identification surveys conducted by LGL Alaska Research Associates, Inc. The survey covered the coastal areas north of Point Possession and Beluga River. The survey was flown in a high-wing, twin-engine aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) and a speed of 185 km/hr (100 kt). Two flights occurred each day on August 11 and 12: a full survey of the upper inlet in the morning to locate groups and an afternoon survey of the upper inlet that coincided with the low tide, when belugas are typically found in consolidated groups.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet Alaska August 2010

NOAA Fisheries conducted an aerial survey of the beluga population in northern Cook Inlet, Alaska  August 17-20, 2010. The goal of the surveys was to obtain high-resolution video of each group of belugas to determine age structure (white relative to gray individuals and dark gray calves) and number of calves. The survey covered the coastal areas north of Point Possession and Beluga River. Consistent with previous surveys by NOAA Fisheries made each year since 1993, the August 2010 survey was flown in a high-wing, twin-engine aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) and a speed of 185 km/hr (100 kt). The survey track paralleled the coast (1.4 km offshore) and surveys occurred during the low tide when possible.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet Alaska August 2011

NOAA Fisheries conducted an aerial survey of the beluga population in northern Cook Inlet, Alaska, August 9-11 2011. The goal of the surveys was to obtain high-resolution video of each group of belugas to determine age structure (white relative to gray individuals and dark gray calves) and number of calves. The survey covered the coastal areas north of Point Possession and Beluga River. Consistent with previous surveys by NOAA Fisheries made each year since 1993, the August 2011 survey was flown in a high-wing, twin-engine aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) and a speed of 185 km/hr (100 kt). The survey track paralleled the coast (1.4 km offshore) and surveys occurred during the low tide when possible.

Aerial Survey of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet Alaska August 2012

NOAA Fisheries conducted an aerial survey of the beluga population in northern Cook Inlet, Alaska, August 7-9, 2012. The goal of the survey was to obtain high-resolution video of beluga groups in order to determine age structure (white relative to gray individuals and dark gray calves) and number of calves. The survey covered the coastal areas down to Kenai River and north of West Forelands. Following protocol used by NOAA Fisheries since 1993, the August 2012 beluga survey was flown in a high-wing, twin-engine aircraft at an altitude of 244 m (800 ft) and a speed of 185 km/hr (100 kt). The survey track paralleled the coast (1.4 km offshore) and daily surveys occurred during the falling tide when possible.

Aerial Surveys of Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet, Alaska, June 2005 to 2012

A compilation of data from field reports for the years 2005 to 2012.

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on 09/23/2022

Cook Inlet Beluga Whale