After much consideration we have decided to host a monitoring season from August 15th – November 15th. However, there will be some modifications. First, we will not be taking new volunteers. If you have attended an in- person monitoring orientation, have had one-on-one training with a lead observer, and you feel confident monitoring on your own, then you are good to go to volunteer this season. Unfortunately, because of the close proximity of the one-on-one training we will not be able to get new volunteers up to speed for this fall. We apologize and please know the safety of our community is our top priority. Second, we have some new requirements for monitoring belugas as an AKBMP volunteer.
During monitoring sessions, please:
- Wear a mask covering both your nose and mouth
- Do not monitor with more than one other person
- Keep 12 feet away from the other observer and any visitors to the site
- Do not share equipment or gear (binoculars, pens, clipboards, etc.)
- Stop monitoring and leave the site if you are approached by someone who doesn’t respect the 12 feet social distancing requirement or you feel unsafe in any way
These requirements are at the top of the updated data forms for your convenience. We understand that our beluga monitoring requirements may be more strict than some state and local level health mandates. However, these extra precautions will help ensure we can get the job done without changing our methods down the road. We believe this extra precaution is smart and important. Please, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of you feeling safe while you are monitoring. If you don’t feel safe, don’t monitor. As always, we encourage you to report any opportunistic sightings that you see when you are out and about along Cook Inlet. Lastly, throughout the season we will be closely monitoring the ever changing status of the pandemic. If it becomes necessary to further modify our monitoring methods, we will contact you by email and post changes to our website. Below are some resources for you to stay updated.
Changes to Protocol
There have been a few minor changes to our datasheets and the monitoring protocol since last fall. Look over the Beluga Observation Log so you are familiar with the changes and understand how to collect the necessary data. The major updates are related to how we are recorded human activity when there are belugas in the area and you can learn about these changes under the “Beluga Behavior and Human Activity” section in the updated Monitoring Protocol on our website. If you have any questions please feel free to email us.
The Ship Creek monitoring schedule will have more options this season. This last fall we had our monitoring sessions scheduled to start 3 hours before max high tide at Ship Creek. This winter we reviewed reports that informed us there are belugas in the area around low tide as well. With this new information we have decided to add a low tide monitoring session to the original schedule. This will allow us to compare between the tidal stages and gain a better understanding of how belugas use the area. With the amount of human activity around our Ship Creek site this is important information to know. With your help we will be able to answer important questions about when belugas are using the Ship Creek area.
How to Get Started
Check out our resource page for updated data forms, protocols, session signup, and data entry! Also, we have posted video of the orientations from spring for you to review if you are feeling a bit rusting on your monitoring skills. If you have any questions or issues please don’t hesitate to email us (email@example.com) or call (206-659-1886). We are here to help and provide you with what you need to feel ready!
If you aren’t comfortable monitoring there are still ways you can help Cook Inlet belugas. Below are a few ways to stay involved and other opportunities will be added as the season progresses.
Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Graphing Worksheet:
Defenders of Wildlife Alaska put together a wonderful worksheet for kids to learn about how scientists count belugas in Cook Inlet and what has been happening with the population over the years. Check it out!
We need YOU!
Beluga whales are opportunistic feeders, eating a variety of fishes including salmon, eulachon, cod, flounder, and invertebrates such as octopus, squid, crabs, shrimp, clams, mussels, and snails. Current data on what Cook Inlet beluga whales eat is quite limited, especially in the winter, and based primarily on visual observations of whales in areas of seasonal prey concentrations (eulachon and salmon runs). While belugas are known to eat large amounts of fish in spring and summer, little is known about winter distribution and less about winter feeding.
For example, beluga whales have been observed in the Kenai River in winter and early spring and rivers in upper Turnagain Arm in late fall but there is limited data on what fishes and invertebrates are in the rivers during these months. What could they be eating?
WITH YOUR KNOWLEDGE, we can learn more about what species are in the rivers and other areas around Cook Inlet. Your information will help inform what belugas are eating in fall, winter, and early spring (September – April). By providing your local knowledge, we can start filling the existing knowledge gaps and contribute to beluga recovery.
The survey focuses on collecting information on Kenai, Kasilof, Twentymile, and Six Mile River, BUT you can also share information on any river or area in Cook Inlet.
Please send this survey to anyone and everyone that has local knowledge to share. Thank you!
If you do happen to observe beluga whales incidental to your adventures please report them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project. Every sighting counts but above all else please keep your loved ones and community safe.