Eastern Chukchi Sea Stock

Collaborators Greg O’Corry-Crowe, beluga hunters throughout Alaska, Robert Suydam, Lori Quakenbush


Skin samples from the harvested beluga whales at Point Lay were used to obtain DNA for genetic studies. Dr. Greg O’Corry-Crowe compared the genetics of the Point Lay belugas to other beluga stocks in Alaska and western Canada in order to learn more about the population structure, breeding patterns, and migration of animals between stocks. Traditionally, it was thought that there were five stocks in the western Arctic but this work has provided evidence that may change the number to six stocks.

Conclusions from the genetics work so far:

  • There are significant differences between groups that summer together, indicating that these animals are very faithful to these summer concentration areas, returning every year.
  • There are some similarities among the stocks of beluga in western and northern Alaska, indicating that there is some movement of individual whales between groups. The stock in Cook Inlet stock is quite genetically different from the other stocks.
  • It was possible to look at an individual whale’s DNA and have a good idea of what stock it came from originally.
  • Belugas from Kotzebue Sound appear to be a unique stock. Those whales are genetically different from the eastern Chukchi group, which gather near Point Lay early in the summer. These animals used to be considered as one stock but may need to be separated into two stocks based on the genetic information. If they are separated, they will need to be managed as separate groups to ensure harvests are sustainable.

Map of stocks of Beluga whales in Alaska (ADFG)



Close Search Window