Over $1.7 million in grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been awarded to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to support research, management and outreach campaigns for Steller sea lions and Cook Inlet beluga whales.
The funds, announced by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska on Aug. 9, are being dispersed under the Species Recovery Grants to States Program, through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019, which is designed to support conservation of wildlife listed as endangered species. “The funding will not only help us better understand foraging ecology and habitat disturbances but will also assist the Department of Fish and Game in the development of a long-term strategy for population recovery,” Young said.
The grants, each spread over a three-year period, include $443,579 for research on habitat use of adult female Steller sea lions in the endangered western distinct population segment; $850,642 to enhance and strengthen Cook Inlet beluga conservation and management strategies, and $409,802 for strengthen estimation of Cook Inlet beluga whale rates of reproduction and survival.
Overall, this work will help address gaps in current understanding in basic Cook Inlet beluga biology and ultimately help determine factors preventing recovery of this endangered population, NOAA officials said.