Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Beluga whales rapid decline; Whalers agree to cancel hunt

This article was submitted by Mary Sage in Barrow, Alaska.

Hunters and agency agree to cancel beluga whale hunt

COOK INLET: Numbers here diminishing while other populations are stronger.

By JEANNETTE J. LEE, The Associated Press

Published: April 17, 2007

Fifty years ago, a whale hunter in Cook Inlet could counton spotting the bulbous white heads of a beluga pod after a half hour or less on the water.But with the whales' rapid and mysterious disappearance,local hunters can be out in the swirling currents and swifttides for three times as long before a pod swims into sight.The population is now so low that Alaska Native whalers,who have chased belugas for generations, agreed Monday to cancel their annual hunt for the third time in nine yearsat the request of the National Marine Fisheries Service.The agency is expected to decide this week whether to declare the animals endangered.

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