Bruce Smith (A National Marine Fisheries Service biologist studying the belugas) said: “There’s basically a one in four chance that this population is going to become extinct in 100 years.”
A federal study says, Beluga whales swimming off Alaska’s largest city are at considerable risk of going extinct unless something is done to help them. A new count by the National Marine Fisheries Service puts the Beluga whale population at 302, less than half the number in 1994 and well below the 1,000 to 2,000 believed to have been swimming in earlier years in the glacier-fed channel that runs from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska.
Some facts about belugas:
They are capable of diving 1000m deep.
Beluga whales live for around 30 years in the wild.
There are five main populations: the Bering, Chukchi and Okhotsk Seas; high Arctic Canada and west Greenland; Hudson Bay and James Bay; the Svalbard area; and the Gulf of St Lawrence.
They are the only whales that can bend their neck.
They have a narrow ridge along their back that allows them to swim freely under floating ice.
Maximum height of beluga is 3,000lb.
They use echo sound from their clicks, chirps and whistles to locate prey, communicate, and navigate.
What are the reasons for the extinction of beluga whales?
Past tests have shown that belugas and other sea life in Cook Inlet are untainted by industrial pollutants, those factors might have been easily absorbed in the past, but not anymore.
Biologists say the reason for the precipitous decline since the 1990s was over harvesting by the area’s Alaska Natives, mostly Athabascan Indians, who are entitled by law to pursue their traditional whale hunts.
Oil drilling, associated bustle and noise, vessel-traffic pressures from thriving cargo-shipping and commercial fishing activities, sewage and storm water runoff from Alaska’s most densely populated region and other industrial factors are likely hurting the belugas.
One of the problems is that scientists still do not know why numbers are declining. The report is disheartening in light of efforts made in recent years to save the belugas.
Via: The Independent