Alaska to sue over whale protection

The US state of Alaska plans to challenge federal protection of beluga whales living in an oil-rich, glacier-fed saltwater channel, Reuters reported. Alaska governor Sarah Palin said the “endangered” listing of the whale population in Cook Inlet – an oil-producing basin running from Anchorage to the Gulf of Alaska -- was unwarranted.


Last October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the protection under the Endangered Species Act. An estimated 375 whales now inhabit the inlet, down from a population of 1,300 three decades ago. The decline has been attributed to overhunting by native peoples.


In announcing that Alaska had sent NOAA a 60-day notice of intent to sue, Palin said the state “has worked cooperatively with the federal government to protect and conserve” the whales, but that its efforts had not been taken into account “as required by law”. Alaska officials maintain that some recent controls on hunting have produced a recovery in the whale numbers.


Five months ago, Alaska filed a lawsuit against the government, seeking to keep polar bears off the threatened species list. The state argues that designating the animals as threatened will hurt oil and gas exploration, fisheries and tourism.


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