General information

The Alaska Beluga Whale Committee received approximately $4,700,000 in funding from NOAA during the 24-year period form 1992-2015. For that 4.7 million, the ABWC accomplished the following:

  • Abundance
  • Diet Studies
  • Genetic Stock Identification
  • Habitat Use & Diving Behavior
  • Harvest
  • Health Assessment & Contaminants
  • Management Planning & TEK


Bristol Bay – six multi-day surveys (1993, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2016).

Norton Sound – six multi-day surveys (1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2017).

Eastern Chukchi Sea – nine multi-day surveys (1990, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2012).


Diet Studies

Stomach sample analysis in northern and western Alaska.

Fatty acid analysis in northern Alaska.


Genetic Stock Identification, Genetic Mark-Recapture Biopsy Study

Bristol Bay, eastern Bering Sea, Kotzebue Sound, eastern Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea 1988-2010 (~1250 samples).

Bristol Bay – 2002-2011, supplemented by other funding (approximately 700 biopsy samples). This is the first time genetics samples have been used for a mark-recapture study of belugas.


Habitat Use & Diving Behavior

Bristol Bay – 2002-2011, supplemented by other funding (69 belugas tagged).

Eastern Bering Sea – 2012, 2014, 2016, 2019 (Nome, Stebbins, Hooper Bay, 8 belugas tagged by local ABWC taggers).

Eastern Chukchi Sea (Point Lay) – 1996-2012, 2019, supplemented by other funding ( ~30 belugas tagged).

Chukchi and Beaufort sea belugas – model habitat use using ABWC and Canadian satellite tag data.

Chukchi Sea – diving behavior.

Bristol Bay, Eastern Bering, Eastern Chukchi, Eastern Beaufort stocks – wintering areas.



Harvest Manual (1995, reprinted 2000, 2016).

Statewide (no Cook Inlet) 1987 to present – published (2011), reported annually to NOAA & IWC.


Health Assessments & Contaminants

Bristol Bay, assisted many other studies.

Alaska Marine Mammal Tissue Archival Program—provided samples and participated in publication of contaminant levels.

Point Lay, supplemented by many other studies.


  • Woshner, V.M., T.M. O’Hara, J.A. Eurell, M.A. Wallig, G.R. Bratton, R.S. Suydam, V.R. Beasley. 2002. Distribution of Inorganic Mercury in Liver and Kidney of Beluga and Bowhead Whales Through Autometallographic Development of Light Microscopic Tissue Sections. Toxicologic Pathology 30(2):209–215.
  • Thompson L.A., T.R. Spoon, C.E.C. Goertz, R.C. Hobbs, T.A. Romano. 2014. Blow Collection as a Non-Invasive Method for Measuring Cortisol in the Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas). PLoS ONE 9(12): e114062. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114062.
  • Mooney TA, Castellote M, Quakenbush L, Hobbs R, Goertz C, Gaglione E. 2016. Measuring Hearing in Wild Beluga Whales. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2016:875:729-35. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-2981-8_88.
  • Waugh, D.A., R.S. Suydam, J.D. Ortiz, and J.G.M. Thewissen. 2018. Validation of growth layer group (GLG) depositional rate using daily incremental growth lines in the dentin of beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) teeth. PLOS ONE 13(1):e0190498.
  • Goertz CEC, Burek-Huntington K, Royer K, Quakenbush L, Clauss T, Hobbs R, Kellar N. 2019. Comparing progesterone in blubber and serum to assess pregnancy in wild belugas (Delphinapterus leucas). Conservation Physiology 7. doi: 10.1093/conphys/coz071.
  • Poirer MC, Lair S, Michaud R, Hernandez-Ramon EE, Divi KV, and others. 2019. Intestinal Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon-DNA Adducts in a Population of Beluga Whales with High Levels of Gastrointestinal Cancers. Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis 60:29-41.

International Whaling Commission, North Atlantic Marine Mammal Committee, IUCN

ABWC representatives attend annual IWC Scientific Committee meetings, annually since 1988.

ABWC members and scientists attend IWC Beluga Reviews (1991, 1999).

ABWC scientist attended NAMMCO international monodontid review, prepared status reports for Bristol Bay, Eastern Bering, and Eastern Chukchi Sea beluga stocks (2017).

Publications for IWC:

  • Lowry, L.F., J.J. Burns and K.J. Frost. 1989. Recent harvests of belukha whales in western and northern Alaska and their potential impact on provisional management stocks. Rep. International Whaling Commission 39:335-339.
  • Lowry L.F. and K.J. Frost. 1999. Alaska Beluga Whale Committee Surveys of Beluga Whales in Bristol Bay, Alaska, 1993-1994. Rep. International Whaling Commission. SC/51/SM 32.
  • Lowry L.F., D.P. DeMaster, K.J. Frost, and W. Perryman. 1999. Alaska Beluga Whale Committee Surveys of Beluga Whales in the Eastern Chukchi Sea, 1996-1998. Rep. International Whaling Commission. SC/51/SM 33.
  • Lowry L.F., D.P. DeMaster, and K.J. Frost. 1999. Alaska Beluga Whale Committee Surveys of Beluga Whales in the Eastern Bering Sea, 1992-1995. Rep. International Whaling Commission. SC/51/SM 34.
  • Lowry, L.F., and R.L. Schaeffer. 1999. Conservation Issues for Western Alaska Beluga Whale Stocks. Presented to the 51st International Whaling Commission SC/51/SM38.
  • O’Corry-Crowe G.M. and L.F. Lowry. 1999. A review of the status and stock structure of beluga whales, Delphinapterus leucas. Rep. International Whaling Commission SC/51/SM37.
  • Suydam, R.S. 1999. Age, growth, and reproduction of beluga whales from the Eastern Chukchi Sea, Alaska. Rep. International Whaling Commission. SC/51/SM40.
  • Suydam R.S., L.F. Lowry, K.J. Frost, G.M. O’Corry-Crowe, and D. Pikok, Jr. 1999. Satellite tracking of eastern Chukchi Sea beluga whales in the Arctic Ocean. Rep. International Whaling Commission SC/51/SM39.
  • Lowry LF, Reeves R, Laidre K. 2017. Delphinapterus leucas. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T6335A50352346.
  • Givens GH, Ferguson MC, Clarke JT, Willoughby A, Suydam R. 2019. Abundance of the Eastern Chukchi Sea Stock of Beluga Whales, 2012-2017. Report to the International Whaling Commission SC/68A/ASI/09.

Management Planning & TEK

ABWC Management Plan.

Co-management Plan – Cooperative Agreement NMFS and ABWC (1999).

Joint Alaska/Canada Beluga Whale Management Plan (1998).

Bristol Bay Regional Management Plan (2003).



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