Alaska's beluga whale added to endangered list
The beluga whale in Alaska’s Cook Inlet has been put on the Endangered Species list by the federal government today. Ironically, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin questions if the whale is in fact endangered.
The federal government has declared that the beluga whale in Alaska's Cook Inlet is endangered and will require additional protection to survive.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the whale under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act on Friday.
It says the whale's population declined by 50 per cent between 1994 and 1998 and "is still not recovering."
The findings by NOAA's National Marines Fisheries Service conflict with claims by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has questioned scientific evidence that the beluga whale population in the waters near Anchorage continues to decline.
Palin, Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate, has strongly objected to the federal government's possible declaration of the whale as endangered.
The Cook Inlet beluga is one of five beluga whale populations in Alaska waters but the only one considered endangered.
It said that recovery of the beluga whale has been hindered by development and a range of economic and industrial activities including those related to oil and gas exploration in the Cook Inlet, which lies between the Alaska and Kenai peninsulas.
The Interior Department has proposed making available oil leases in the Cook Inlet as early as next year and in 2011, saying the waters have an estimated $1.38 billion worth of energy resources. Protection of the whale could hinder some of those activities.