NOAA Fisheries has cancelled its popular beluga whale count in Anchorage for 2021, citing safety concerns as numbers of infected people continue to rise in the COVID-19 pandemic, but is still offering guidelines on how to help count these endangered whales.
“Belugas Count is a family-focused event that brings together people of all ages,” said Jon Kurland, director of NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region’s Protected Resources Division.
“Regrettably, due to the status of the pandemic, NOAA Fisheries and our partners decided to cancel the 2021 Belugas Count event, as we did in 2020, out of an abundance of caution.”
NOAA Fisheries said they plan to hold a webinar Sept. 10 with a focus on Cook Inlet beluga whales, and that they hope to resume belugas counts in September 2022.
For all those hoping to look out for Cook Inlet belugas, the recommended time is three to four hours before high tide. Officials suggest that those who want to see the belugas consult NOAA’s Tide and Currents website, cdv.tiny.us/tide, for their viewing location before heading out and if belugas are observed to report them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Project at cdv.tiny.us/beluga.
Information on where and when to view Cook Inlet belugas is online at the Belugas Count Facebook page, www.facebook.com/BelugasCount.
Those interested in helping to monitor Cook Inlet belugas throughout the fall are invited to check out the Alaska Beluga Monitoring Partnership at akbmp.org, to learn more about how to participate in a collaborative citizen science effort geared toward learning more about this species. Every sighting counts, NOAA biologists said.