Beluga count set for Sept. 23

OAA Fisheries’ fifth annual Cook Inlet beluga whale count is set for Sept. 23, which is also the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. 

The annual beluga count, established in 2017, is the largest single-day public education outreach event for the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale, as well as the largest outreach event led by the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Region.  

Scientists estimate that there are currently less than 300 beluga whales remaining in the population, which is genetically distinct from other beluga populations and is only found in Cook Inlet. 

There will be multiple viewing and indoor event locations along Cook Inlet. Everyone is welcome to participate in this free event to help count these whales. 

Additionally, for the first time ever, this year’s event preparation included a poster art design contest open to Alaska residents ages 12 and up. A voting panel composed of Beluga Count event partners reviewed the submissions, scoring them on originality, visual design, aesthetic appeal, adherence to the Belugas Count theme, and consistency with current scientific information on Cook Inlet beluga whales and their habitat.  

The poster deigned by Barb Lake of Juneau received the highest score, and will be printed on event posters, NOAA websites, and social media. 


The event is a collaboration among federal and state agencies, local and national organizations, academia, aquaria, industry, and others. It is focused on fostering local pride, awareness and stewardship of Cook Inlet belugas in support of their recovery. 

Partners and supporters include: Alaska Beluga Monitoring Program, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Sealife Center, Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services, Alaska Wildlife Alliance, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Alaska Zoo, Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility, Beluga Whale Alliance, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Georgia Aquarium, Glacier Oil & Gas, Hilcorp, Kenai Peninsula College, Matson, Mystic Aquarium, Native Village of Tyonek, SeaWorld, Shedd Aquarium, Tebughna School, and the U.S. Forest Service. 

Anyone interested in becoming an event partner or supporter should contact the NOAA Fisheries’ Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Recovery Coordinator, marine mammal specialist Jill Seymour.