We are pleased to announce publication of the following paper in the
journal Marine Fisheries Review.

Rouse, N, Burek-Huntington, K, and Shelden, KEW. 2017. Asphyxiation of an
Endangered Cook Inlet Beluga Whale, Delphinapterus leucas. Mar. Fish. Rev.
79(2):38-43. doi: https://doi.org/10.7755/MFR.79.2.3

The isolated population of Cook Inlet beluga whales, Delphinapterus leucas,
is endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). They reside
year-round in the Cook Inlet tidal estuary in southcentral Alaska, near
Anchorage. Due to their ESA status, information on causes of mortality are
important. A dead beluga was reported in Turnagain Arm, Cook Inlet, on 7
Oct. 2013, and a necropsy was performed two days later. The beluga was a
robust, apparently healthy adult male ~40 years old. Cause of death was
determined to be asphyxiation caused by a starry flounder, Platichthys
stellatus, found lodged in the pharynx at the goose beak, dislocating the
larynx. Prey anatomy such as spines, body shape, and backbone rigidity may
increase the risk of choking in beluga whales and other cetaceans. This is
the first known death by asphyxiation of the 49 Cook Inlet beluga deaths
investigated in the last 18 years, indicating that it is rare and not
likely to be a significant cause of mortality. It is important, however, to
monitor and document all sources of mortality given the status of this
endangered population.

​A PDF of the paper is available at: ​


*Kim E.W. Shelden, M.M.A.*
Marine Biologist, Cetacean Assessment & Ecology Program
Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center
7600 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle, Washington 98115-6349
(206) 526-6275 office, (206) 526-6615 fax, www.afsc.noaa.gov/nmml/

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