Monday, May 20, 2013
Beluga Whales Critical Habitat Ruling
The Feds are giving beluga whales in the Cook Inlet more protection. We have the details on the new critical habitat.
There are about three to four hundred beluga whales left in Cook Inlet.
NOAA Fisheries will designate more than 3,000 miles of protected habitat for the white whales.
It’s a designation that many scientists and marine biologists believe couldn’t come soon enough.
“The designation of critical habitat is a really great step in protecting the Beluga,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Alaska Director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Studies have show that species with critical habitat are more than twice as likely to be a recovering species without,” she said.
However, many Alaska Lawmakers do not agree with the ruling. While politicians have been busy working in Washington D.C. on Friday’s federal budget deadline, many of them do not agree with the critical habitat designation in Cook Inlet.
Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich is concerned it could stall or shut down projects crucial to Alaska’s development.
In a statement released earlier Friday he said, “NOAA is still trying to tell Alaskans this designation will only have a small ripple effect on the Southcentral economy. Unfortunately, it could be a bore tide.”
NOAA said the estimated financial impact will total about $364,000 per year. Although, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski said, “The costs involved are 100 times higher than they’re estimating.”
An independent economic analysis suggests the total costs to be between about $40 and $400 million dollars per year.
But the Center for Biological Diversity believes the Cook Inlet beluga whales are subject to an ongoing attack on wildlife in Alaska.
Two locations not affected include the Port of Anchorage and the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
NOAA expects the rule to be published next Monday, which means another 30 days until the protected designation will be effective.