Back to All Events

2018 Cook Inlet Belugas Count Festival at the Zoo


Join NOAA Fisheries and partners for the second annual Cook Inlet #BelugasCount! event on Saturday, September 15, 2018. The Alaska Zoo will be hosting a Beluga Festival associated with this event, held in the Gateway Building near the zoo entrance. The festival in the Gateway Building will be from 1pm to 5pm on September 15th, free entry to the building and regular admission to enter zoo grounds. See live streaming of belugas at partnering aquariums, visit partner booths, see a real beluga skeleton, escape a marine debris obstacle course, learn how to age belugas with their teeth and enjoy a storytime program. And be sure to bring your appetite as the zoo will be hosting the food trucks Bake My Day and Tin Roof in the parking lot during the festival.

General Information on the larger Belugas Count event:

This FREE all-day event brings together citizens to focus on the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale, fostering local pride, awareness, and stewardship. It is a collaboration between a variety of federal and state agencies, local and national organizations, as well as individuals.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated in making the 2017 #BelugasCount! a success! Nearly 2,000 folks attended, counting 260 beluga sightings!

This year, #BelugasCount! is back with numerous NEW viewing stations, a variety of NEW partners, and exciting NEW activities! See below for info & details. 

-- Viewing Stations --
First, help us count whales at 28 shore-based viewing stations throughout Cook Inlet (Note that 13 are not publicly accessible), from Homer to the Mat Su Valley! The viewing stations will be operating from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on the day of the event, although monitoring will take place earlier in Homer (7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.), Kenai (8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.), and Tyonek (9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.). All public viewing stations will be marked with signs. 

-- Public Viewing Station Locations -- 
Kincaid Park (motocross site AND bluffs behind chalet)
Point Woronzof
Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area (Beluga Overlook)
Windy Point
Bird Point
Girdwood (Tidewater Slough)
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Twentymile River
Hope Highway
Goose Bay
Kenai River
Village of Tyonek

The Girdwood (Tidewater Slough), Bird Point, Windy Corner, the Twentymile River, and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center will be staffed until 2:00 p.m.

Between now and September 15th, check the event’s discussion section for detailed directions and descriptions of each viewing station, as well as what to bring!

-- Non-Public Viewing Locations --
12 Hilcorp facilities
1 Glacier Oil and Gas platform
Port Mackenzie due to construction

--Beluga Festival--
After spending the morning counting belugas, join us at the Alaska Zoo (Gateway Complex) from 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. for an afternoon festival featuring exciting presentations, booths, and fun activities for the whole family! 

Watch beluga live-streams from partnering aquaria, see a real beluga skeleton, escape a marine debris obstacle course, enjoy story time with the Anchorage Public Library and learn how to age belugas from their teeth.

Booths will include displays and activities from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Alaska Zoo, Alaska Water and Wastewater Utility, Anchorage Waterways Council, Beluga Whale Alliance, Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project, Cook Inletkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, NOAA Fisheries, and the U.S. Forest Service.

--Educational Talks-- 
These will be located in the classroom downstairs at the Gateway Complex at the Alaska Zoo. 

1:30 p.m.
Mystic Aquarium
What Belugas in Connecticut Can Tell Us About Belugas in Cook Inlet

2:15 p.m.
Georgia Aquarium
Beluga Ambassadors – What Experts Learn From Caring For Belugas and How It Can Help Wild Populations

3:00 p.m.
SeaWorld San Antonio
Update on the Cook Inlet Beluga Calf Rescued in 2017

3:45 p.m.
Shedd Aquarium
Using Animal Husbandry to Inform Beluga Research, Health and Welfare

4:30 p.m.
NOAA Fisheries
Update on Cook Inlet Beluga Conservation & Recovery

Belugas Count! is FREE and open to the public! No registration is required to attend.

Note: At the Alaska Zoo, admission is free to the event only, which is hosted outside the zoo gates. 

Save the date and participate! Help us spot and count these whales!

-- Why Cook Inlet “Belugas Count!”-- 
The Cook Inlet belugas need our help! This geographically-isolated population of belugas is listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act and "critically endangered" on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. Swimming around in the busy Inlet waters near Anchorage, they face a variety of threats, including noise, habitat degradation, and disease. Scientists estimate their total population numbers between 300-400. In 2015, NOAA Fisheries designated Cook Inlet beluga whales as one of eight “Species in the Spotlight”—species in need of a concerted effort by individuals, agencies, groups, tribes, institutions, and organizations large and small to survive. 

-- Your Participation Counts! -- 
You can help us turn this situation around for this species! Any beluga whales you see will be entered into the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Ecosystem Portal which is used by Cook Inlet beluga managers and researchers to help assess location and abundance information. By participating, you are directly contributing to recovery efforts!

For more information, please visit

Check out #BelugasCount! to see photos and posts from the 2017 Belugas Count! 

Between now and September 15th, regularly check the Belugas Count! homepage and the event’s discussion section for the latest updates on the 2018 event!

See you on September 15, 2018!

-The Belugas Count! Team

This event is sponsored by NOAA Fisheries with partners: Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Zoo, Alaska SeaLife Center, Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Anchorage Public Library, Anchorage Waterways Council, Anchorage Wastewater & Utility, Beluga Whale Alliance, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo ID Project, Cook Inletkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, Georgia Aquarium, Glacier Oil & Gas, Hilcorp Energy, Mystic Aquarium, SeaWorld, Shedd Aquarium, UAA Kachemak Bay, the U.S. Forest Service, and committed individuals.

Earlier Event: September 12
Evening with Wolves Fundraiser
Later Event: September 16
Critter Chat: Snow Leopard