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Cook Inlet beluga spotted in Puget Sound

According to a report from Seattle public radio station KUOW, a beluga whale, probably from Cook Inlet, has been spotted swimming along the Seattle and Tacoma waterfronts.

It was spotted in Tacoma's Commencement Bay on Sunday, swimming quietly between a sailboat and a barge full of scrap metal. Boater Jason Rogers captured video of the white whale, close enough to hear it exhale, and reported it to the nonprofit Orca Network.

The whale was then seen swimming around Seattle’s Elliott Bay on Monday.

Marine mammal experts soon confirmed that it was a beluga whale, 1,500 miles or more from the nearest known population of its species, in Cook Inlet.

Belugas are normally not found outside Arctic and sub-Arctic waters.

The National Marine Fisheries Service says belugas may number in the hundreds of thousands worldwide, though the species’ Cook Inlet population is considered endangered, with about 280 individuals.

It's exceedingly rare, though not unheard of, for a beluga to swim so far south.

National Geographic reported that a beluga was seen off the coast of Washington State in 1940, and a whale watch captain documented a beluga near San Diego last July. By October, it had washed up dead in a lagoon in Baja California, 400 miles farther south.

 

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