Belugas listed as endangered over Sarah Palin’s objections
Despite opposition from Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, beluga whales in the Cook Inlet have been declared endangered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency estimates that only 375 belugas currently frolic in the inlet, down from some 1,300 in the 1980s. Restricting subsistence hunting by Native Alaskans has not helped the problem, says NOAA, and whales continue to be threatened by development, oil and gas exploration, and industrial activities (as well as beach strandings, disease, and being munched by killer whales). Palin strenuously opposed the listing, stating in Aug. 2007 that the science was inconclusive and that “an unnecessary federal listing and designation of critical habitat would do serious long-term damage to the vibrant economy of the Cook Inlet area.” There may indeed be an impact: Unlike the feds’ polar-bear listing, the beluga listing contains no caveat that economic development should remain unhindered.