The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently awarded Azura a contract to provide professional services for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Alaska Region. Azura’s marine mammal scientists will prepare a Comment Analysis Report for comments about the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Draft Recovery Plan submitted during the public comment period.
Historical estimates indicated that around 1,300 beluga whales were in Cook Inlet, Alaska in 1979. However, Cook Inlet beluga whales suffered a dramatic population decline in the 1990s. Only 340 beluga whales are currently estimated for this population which continues to show a negative trend. NOAA Fisheries listed the Cook Inlet beluga whale as endangered in 2008 and designated critical habitat for this Distinct Population Segment (DPS) in 2011. In accordance with the Endangered Species Act, NMFS began drafting a recovery plan for this DPS in 2010. This draft plan to guide efforts to recover Cook Inlet beluga whales was released on 15 May 2015. All public comments must be submitted to NMFS by 14 July 2015.
Azura’s marine mammal scientists will systematically review, code, and categorize all comment submissions on the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Draft Recovery Plan. We will also identify, categorize, and summarize substantive comments within each submission to capture the general issues raised in the comments with similar themes. These comments include those constituting statements, suggested actions, data, background information, or clarifications relating to the Draft Recovery Plan. After analyzing all comments, we will prepare a Comment Analysis Report which summarizes the number and type of submissions, explains the methodology used for the comment coding, and includes the comment matrix to facilitate searches for specific submissions and associated comment summaries. This Comment Analysis Report will aid NOAA in preparing responses to the public comments and incorporating pertinent information into the revised recovery plan.