Deep-sea shelter

Endangered whale promised overdue habitat protection

More than 30,000 square miles of critical habitat for the Cook Inlet beluga whale (pictured) was granted protection by the federal fisheries service in early December, in response to threats of a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, according to a press release.

The National Marine Fisheries Service proposed protection for the Alaskan whales under the Endangered Species Act. The whale has been listed as endangered since October 2008, despite objections from then-Governor Sarah Palin.

With the new protection, federal agencies will be prohibited from “adversely” modifying the designated habitat of the whales.

Cook Inlet beluga whales, which are genetically distinct and geographically isolated in Alaska, have plummeted from an estimated population of 1,300 whales in the ’80s to fewer than 400 today. Scientists now propose the whale’s recovery is being hampered by noise and pollution from industrial activities in the Cook inlet.