The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added the Alaskan Beluga Whale to the list of species that deserve special protection. The decision contradicts Alaskan Governor and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin.

The population of Cook Inlet Beluga Whales has dropped to about 375 from a 1995 high of almost 700 individuals. The listing means that government projects and permits will have to demonstrate that no harm will come to the whales during a project.

The whales face a multitude of threats, and Palin’s decision to challenge the listing in April delayed a research study designed to determine the biggest threats to the whale population. Killer whales are the natural enemy of beluga whales.

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