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DC Judge Lamberth Upholds Cook Inlet Beluga Endangered Listing

Map of five Alaska beluga whale stocks.

Map of five Alaska beluga whale stocks.

NOAA map

A U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C. has upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service listing of Cook Inlet beluga whales as endangered.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth opened the 25-page Memorandum of Opinion with:

"The absence of an expected change is sometimes indistinguishable from the presence of an observed one. So when the best available science predicts that a recently enacted ban on subsistence hunting will reverse the abrupt depletion of a species, a decade without any noticeable recovery in the species’ population should raise a concern that the true cause of its decline has not been fully addressed. The species in this case—beluga whales in Alaska’s Cook Inlet—was nearly wiped out by a catastrophic spree of subsistence whaling between 1994 and 1998. More than a decade later, and despite the passage of a legislative moratorium on subsistence hunting in 1999, the population of Cook Inlet beluga whales has failed to show any appreciable signs of recovery. For this and other reasons, the National Marine Fisheries Service (“Service”) granted a petition to list the species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq. The Service’s decision is rational and is supported by the administrative record, and the defendants are therefore entitled to summary judgment."

The opinion can be read in full here.

Read more about beluga whales here.

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