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Beluga Whale (Delphinapterus leucas)

Beluga whale
Beluga whale (Photo: Roy Nageak)

Beluga whales are found in seasonally ice-covered waters throughout arctic and sub arctic regions. With the exception of those in Cook Inlet and adjacent waters of the northern Gulf of Alaska, most beluga whales in U.S. waters are thought to winter in the Bering Sea and Atlantic Ocean in open leads and polynyas in the pack ice. In spring and summer, they are found in coastal areas or the offshore pack ice. Five stocks are recognized in U.S. waters off Alaska based on the species' discontinuous summer distribution and on mitochondrial DNA analyses that indicate clear genetic differences among animals using different summering areas. The five stocks are named after their primary summering areas, which are located in Cook Inlet, Bristol Bay, the eastern Bering Sea, the eastern Chukchi Sea, and the Beaufort Sea.

Range and Habitat:

Northern Hemisphere centered mainly between 50°N and 80°N

Status under Law:

Cook Inlet population depleted (MMPA)

All others not listed

Conservation issues:

Subsistence harvests, critically small population size, contaminants

Physical characteristics:

At Birth At Maturity
Length 1.5-1.6 m
3.9-4.9 m
Weight 80-100 kg
(176-220 lb)
700-1,600 kg
(1,500-3,500 lb)


At least 25 years, possibly more than 50

Annual Report:

For more information, see the Beluga Whale section from the 2002 Annual Report

Download a copy: PDF (148 KB)

Additional Links:

National Marine Fisheries Service - Stock Assessment Reports

National Marine Fisheries Service - Beluga Whales in Alaska

Alaska Fisheries Science Center - Beluga Whale Home Page

Alaska Department of Fish & Game - Beluga Whale

Alaska Fisheries Science Center - Beluga Whales in Cook Inlet


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