Quantcast

Extreme Fossil Fuel Extraction Impacts Future of Beluga Whales

Energy

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Taryn Kiekow

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Science Center released last week its annual survey of endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales—and the findings don’t bode well for belugas. The 2012 population estimate is 312. According to NOAA, this is a “small, but not scientifically significant increase over last year.”

The 2011 survey estimated 284 whales, while the 2010 survey estimated 340 whales. Watch this video narrated by Pierce Brosnan:

Over the past couple of decades, the number of Cook Inlet beluga whales has plummeted from 1,300 to just 312. 

That’s why Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups have been fighting to ensure protection for this iconic species, which is both genetically distinct and geographically isolated to Cook Inlet. In April 2006, we petitioned NOAA to list Cook Inlet belugas as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The government finally listed the Cook Inlet beluga whale as endangered in April 2008 and designated more than 3,000 square miles of the Cook Inlet as critical habitat essential to the whales’ survival.

In November 2011, we won a major victory in federal court when the judge upheld the endangered species status of Cook Inlet beluga whales under the ESA.

Despite these protections, the population remains critically endangered. Ship strikes, noise pollution and industrial development consistently threaten the health and habitat of Cook Inlet beluga whales. Oil and gas drilling activities—which use air guns to deploy some of the loudest manmade sounds—are flooding beluga whales with a cacophony of underwater noise pollution. 

Which is why we filed a lawsuit earlier this year to challenge a permit that authorizes Apache Alaska Corporation to “take” 30 beluga whales every year incidental to the company’s oil and gas exploration in waters designated as critical for the whales’ survival.

We’re also opposing another proposal—the Pebble Mine—that would require the construction of a new deepwater port, marine terminal and slurry pipelines in designated critical habitat for Cook Inlet beluga whales.

Now, more than ever, beluga whales need our help. Click here to help protect them before time runs out.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY and ENERGY pages for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Dakota Access pipeline being built in Iowa. Carl Wycoff / CC BY 2.0

The fight between the Standing Rock Sioux and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline is back on, as the tribe opposes a pipeline expansion that it argues would increase the risk of an oil spill.

Read More Show Less
Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less