ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued its proposed limits on subsistence hunting of Cook Inlet beluga whales.
The agency's proposals range from a ban on hunting until stocks are no longer considered depleted to a limit of about two whales per year. The agency's preferred alternative is the two-whale limit.
The Cook Inlet beluga population has declined sharply in the past decade, from about 1,000 whales 10 years ago to about 350 now.
Biologists have blamed the declines on over-hunting.
NOAA will be taking public comment on the proposals through November 27. The agency said while pressures from human-induced activities in the inlet need to be monitored, no other activities other than over-harvesting can be directly linked to the whale's decline.
Before Congress mandated a ban last year, Alaska Natives killed about 70 whales a year. Congress has said the ban would remain in place until the fisheries service and Native groups worked out a co-management plan.
The agency has also scheduled a hearing on the proposed regulations before an administrative law judge in Anchorage on December 5.
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