NOAA Fisheries News Releases
April 14, 2009
Sheela McLean, Public Affairs
NOAA asks for information on Cook Inlet belugas
Today in the Federal Register, NOAA Fisheries published an advanced notice concerning critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whales.
"We arenít yet proposing a rule on critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whales, but we will," explained Doug Mecum, Acting Administrator for the Alaska Region of NOAA Fisheries. "This notice is an effort to get as much information as possible early in the process."
NOAA Fisheries is gathering and analyzing the best available scientific data as well as public information at this stage of the rule-making effort. Agency experts hope to receive information on topics including;
- the past and current numbers and distribution of Cook Inlet beluga whales;
- the habitat type and quality of marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats for all Cook Inlet beluga whales;
- the physical and biological features that are essential to the conservation of Cook Inlet beluga whales within areas they occupy;
- any special management considerations or protection currently associated with essential physical and biological features within areas occupied by Cook Inlet beluga whales, such as any land use management plan, a state statute, a municipal ordinance, or other binding local enactment;
- any specific areas within the range of Cook Inlet beluga whales that may not qualify for critical habitat designation because they lack essential physical or biological features or may not require special management consideration or protections;
- any specific areas outside the area occupied by Cook Inlet beluga whales that are essential for their conservation;
- any specific areas that should be excluded from critical habitat designation because the benefits of such exclusion outweigh the benefits of specifying such area as part of the critical habitat;
- any current or planned activities in the range of Cook Inlet beluga whales and their possible impacts on areas that may qualify as critical habitat;
- any economic or other relevant impacts that may result from designating critical habitat, regardless of whether those impacts are attributable co-extensively to other causes, in particular those impacts affecting small entities;
- other benefits of excluding or designating a specific area as critical habitat; and
- potential peer reviewers for proposed critical habitat designations, including persons with biological and economic expertise relevant to the designations.
Following information gathering and analysis, NOAA Fisheries will publish a proposed rule designating critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whales, opening a period for public comment and for public hearings.
The Federal Register notice and additional information can be found at alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit http://www.noaa.gov. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or: http://www.afsc.noaa.gov.