Whales in the Inlet

One Endangered Species in Profile—The Cook Inlet beluga whale

Nine species of marine mammals, currently listed under the Endangered Species Act and under the jurisdiction of NOAA Fisheries, occur seasonally or year-round within the Pebble Project Action Area.  The proposed Diamond Point Port of the Pebble Project falls within the designated Critical Habitat of one of these species, the Cook Inlet beluga whale.  Learn more about the natural history of the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale and their relationship with the Pebble Project in our latest fact sheet.

Quick Read

  • The Cook Inlet beluga is one of five populations of beluga whales in Alaska.
  • Turnagain Arm is one of only two places in the world where belugas can be seen from the road system. 
  • Alaska Native subsistence harvests from 1994 to 1998 and the observed 50% decline of the Cook Inlet beluga population during that time indicated harvest levels were unsustainable. Following changes to subsistence regulations, the Cook Inlet beluga population did not recover, indicating that other factors limited its recovery. The population was listed as an endangered species in 2008. 
  • The Cook Inlet beluga is one of five populations of beluga whales in Alaska.
  • While scientists have identified threats to the Cook Inlet beluga, the causes of the continued decline are unclear. Noise pollution, catastrophic events, disease, habitat loss, prey reduction, and predation are all threats to the population’s recovery.
  • Diamond Point Port would be developed in Cook Inlet beluga whale established critical habitat and could be an additive stressor to this endangered whale.
  • A Biological Assessment written for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Owl Ridge Natural Resource Consultants, Inc., along with other information, will be used by NOAA Fisheries to make a Biological Opinion about Cook Inlet beluga whales by around mid-January 2021.