Second annual beluga count is Sept. 15

Buoyed by the success of last year’s citizen science event to count belugas whales, NOAA Fisheries is back with the event again, with plans for public stations staffed by NOAA throughout Cook Inlet from Homer to the Matanuska Valley.

A list of all 18 stations is online at https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/alaska/endangered-species-conservation/2018-cook-inlet-belugas-count-viewing-stations

“Seeing belugas in the wild is a great reminder of our connection to Alaska’s oceans,” said Jim Balsiger, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries Alaska. The goal of the all-day citizen science celebration is to bring together the public to focus on the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales, foster local pride, awareness and stewardship.

More than 2,000 people participated in last year’s beluga count, reporting 255 beluga sightings.  This year’s events begin at 10 a.m. and continues until 1 p.m. Sightings will be used by NOAA and partners to help guide management of these iconic whales. Participants are reminded to bring their cameras and binoculars.

Once the count is completed there will be a free Beluga Festival at the Alaska Zoo’s Gateway Complete featuring beluga-related presentations and other family fun activities.

The city of Homer is declaring Sept. 15 Belugas Count Day in honor of the event. There will also be Facebook Live broadcasts from the event at www.facebook.com/BelugasCount. Participants using social media can use the hashtag #BelugasCount!

In October 2008 NOAA Fisheries listed Cook Inlet beluga whales as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, this species continues to suffer a downward population trend. Scientists have estimate there are between 300 and 400 beluga whales in Cook Inlet.