The beluga whale is also known as the white whale or the sea canary. It is a small whale without a dorsal fin and has a high pitched voice which sounds similar to a canary. It is also in the same family category (Monodontidae) as the Narwhal. The beluga is a long lived whale if it is left alone by man as it can live up to 50 years of age. Beluga's are highly social and quite playful. They have been known to playfully spit at other whales and humans too. The U.S. and the Russian Navy have used these whales in anti-mining operations in the arctic waters. There have been several documented incidences where a beluga whale has actually saved the life of a human by bringing them to the surface of the ocean when they were in danger of drowning.

The Beluga is considered a near threatened species overall by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, in the subpopulation of the Cook Inlet in Alaska it is considered to be a critically endangered whale and is under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. The Cook Inlet whale population must contend with the increasingly perilous and industrialized waters near Anchorage, Alaska’s fastest-growing city which threatens it very survival. There are only about 340 or so Belugas left in this area.

In April of this year, federal fisheries officials designated two areas of Cook Inlet as critical habitat for endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales.
This critical habitat comprises 3,016 square miles of marine and estuarine environments considered by scientists to be essential for the whales' survival. The critical habitat designation is based on the results of more than 20 years of research, and an economic analysis was done also. The analysis found that the benefits to the beluga whales far exceeded any costs.

This critical habitat designation, will affect any development activities that would involve a federal permit, license or funding and which may affect critical habitat. These activities would be such things as construction and operation of oil rigs, port construction, dredging or discharges into Cook Inlet. Not everyone is happy with this decision however. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell called the decision "another example of the federal government unnecessarily locking up Alaska land from development."

As with so many of the world's endangered species, there will always be those who want to put economic development ahead of the survival of a species. It will continue to take perseverance and legal protection to make sure that endangered species such as the Beluga whale will be allowed to thrive in their rightful place in the the sun. It is the least that we can do for them.

These beluga whales face extinction
Help Save the Last of Their Kind! Link

Responses to "The Beluga Whale is given habitat protection in Alaska."

  1. Stacie says:

    Heartbreaking! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think these are the most beautiful species.

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