WASHINGTON (CN) – Alaska claims it is managing just fine, thank you, in protecting Cook Inlet beluga whales. The state sued the federal government, which is protecting the whales. Alaska claims the federal protection will hurt the state’s fishing, drilling and transportation industries, and interfere with public services.
In its federal complaint, Alaska claims that after the Cook Inlet beluga population plummeted in the second half of the 1990s, the state instituted conservation measured that stabilized the population.
From 1994 to 1998, the number of whales dropped from 653 to 347 due to “unsustainable harvest,” the state says.
This ended in 1999 after Native Alaskans voluntarily curtailed their subsistence harvest. This became codified in a moratorium in 2000, and subsistence harvest continues to be regulated through co-management by tribes and federal agencies, Alaska claims.
Native American tribes have traditionally hunted whales and other Arctic animals to survive. Since fish-eating beluga whales are at the top of the food chain, they are also threatened by accumulation of toxins in their blubber.
Alaska claims that the 2008 listing of the Cook Inlet beluga as a distinct population segment did not consider that the stock is recovering due to conservation efforts.
The state wants the federal protections and endangered species listing set aside.
Named as defendants are the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Secretary of Commerce.