For Immediate Release, May 14, 2015
Contact: Rebecca Noblin, (907) 274-1110, firstname.lastname@example.org
Feds Release Blueprint to Recover Endangered Cook Inlet Belugas
With Just 300 Left, Alaska Whales Remain Under Threat From Oil Development
ANCHORAGE, Alaska— The National Marine Fisheries Service today put endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales on the road to recovery by releasing a draft recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act, but that plan may only be as good as the government’s willingness to better regulate industrial activities in Cook Inlet.
The recovery plan names 10 threats to belugas in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, including pollution, noise and habitat loss. The plan creates a framework for studying the many threats to Cook Inlet belugas but it does not call for a halt to any of the industrial activities that are likely affecting the whales.
“We’re thrilled to see endangered belugas here in Cook Inlet are finally getting a blueprint for recovery,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But right now, this is basically just a research plan. If the Fisheries Service is serious about saving these charismatic whales, it has to stop handing out permits to harass the whales to every oil and gas company that walks through the door.”
Once numbering 1,300, the Cook Inlet beluga population currently hovers around 300 animals. This diminished population faces a host of threats in its habitat. Cook Inlet, which borders the city of Anchorage, is the most populated and fastest-growing watershed in Alaska, and it’s subject to significant offshore oil and gas development in beluga habitat.
The U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, charged with advising the Fisheries Service on issues related to marine mammals, has repeatedly asked the Fisheries Service to defer issuance of permits to harass beluga whales until the agency can ensure that oil and gas activities are not harming the whales. This summer alone the Fisheries Service has proposed to allow at least five companies to conduct seismic tests for to oil and gas development in Cook Inlet.
“While the 2008 protection of Cook Inlet belugas and subsequent designation of nearly 2 million acres of critical habitat offers the whales important safeguards, these protections are incomplete without a recovery plan,” Noblin said. “It’s important that the government take seriously any activity that may be threatening these whales, and that ought to start with protecting them from oil and gas development.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.