Captive beluga whale spyhops
Captive Beluga looks around
Robyn Angliss / NMML

One of the world’s most depleted populations of whales will get another breather from hunting.

But what will help Alaska’s most urban whales rebound? No one knows.

With the genetically isolated beluga whales of Cook Inlet continuing to slide for unknown reasons — and federal biologists within days of announcing whether the whales deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act — Alaska Natives from a local village have agreed to forgo a summer harvest of two whales.

The decision comes on the eve of the April 20 deadline, when NOAA Fisheries must say whether the depleted Cook Inlet belugas should be protected as endangered under federal law.

Such a decision would jolt Alaska’s urban and commercial center by forcing federal agencies to scrutinize Anchorage-area industry and shoreline development for impacts on belugas — including a proposal to spend $600 million or more to bridge Knik Arm, where the whales spend more and more time.

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