The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also known as NOAA, recently released a report about the Beluga whales. The findings of this report, unfortunately, don’t make for a beautiful reading. The population of Beluga whales at the moment is estimated at 312, and this number, despite being a rise from the 2011 survey of 284 whales, is still short of the 2010 survey mark which stood at an estimated 340 whales.
The numbers of Beluga Whales, which are also known as the Canary of the Sea, have plummeted from 1,300 in the past to 312 today. Much like its feathered namesake, it seems like the whale is in grave danger. At a much greater risk are the pure white whales of Cook Inlet, Alaska. The danger to these Beluga whales comes from greater fossil fuel extraction exercises. The Cook Inlet Beluga whales are different from the normal Beluga whales in physical features. There have been several groups such as the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petitioning against fossil fuel extraction under the Endangered Species Act to protect these animals and their habitat.
The Government of US has already listed Beluga whales under the Endangered Species Act paradigm as a result of their decreasing numbers. This attempt was granted protection by a Federal Judge in the year 2011 as a result of the repeated attempts by environmental activists. Despite the protection given to the whales under the act, they still continue to be in danger of human actions. Some of the most common oil and gas drilling-related actions that affect the health and safety of the whales include:
- Industrial development
- Ship Strikes
- Use of Air guns
- Proposed mining projects
Out of all of these, the most important one is the repeated use of air guns during fossil fuel extraction. The sounds made by the guns are one of the loudest man-made sounds and can particularly disturb the sensitive hearing of the whales and disrupts their breeding and feeding ability.
Interestingly, the company in charge of the exploration of fossil fuels, Apache Alaska Corporation, also has a permit that allows them to kill 30 whales a year as a result of their exploration and extraction efforts. The NRDC has objected to the permit and has taken the company to court. The National Resources Defense Council is also opposing plans to build a new deep water port, slurry pipelines and a marine terminal in the area categorized as Beluga habitat.
The Beluga whales are one of the most interesting creatures on Earth. With their gentle and chirpy demeanor, they are unique and need to be granted special protection. There are seldom all white whales in the seas and oceans and the fact that Alaska has 312 of them is something that should be preserved. Mammals, including whales, have over 25% of their species under the danger of being extinct, which is an alarming development to say the least.