ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Scientists offered the public a look at research and technology surrounding Cook Inlet beluga whales at a conference in Anchorage this week.
The forum was meant to answer questions about the endangered animals, but did not delve into the National Marine Fisheries Service's proposal to designate parts of Cook Inlet as critical habitat for the whales.
Scientists shared the latest research on health, population size, whale movement patterns and technical methods to track the animals -- like passive acoustic monitoring.
“The passive acoustics is really an interesting tool for Cook Inlet, because its listening device is in the water when we can't visually see because the water's so turbid. Also it's beneficial over winter when there's a lot of ice and it's difficult to see the white whale against the white ice,” said marine mammal biologist Mandy Migura.
The NOAA recently estimated the Cook Inlet beluga whale population is growing, but it's only a small increase after more than a decade of steady decline.
The federal government plans to make a decision by the end of the month whether to designate parts of Cook Inlet as critical habitat.