Science

Starving, endangered killer whale J50 spotted alive in US waters

Starving, endangered killer whale J50 spotted alive in US waters

They are waiting for her to show up again in Washington state waters so they can zip out on a boat to do a health assessment, said Teri Rowles, marine mammal health and stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

Cottrell couldn't say when the Canadian approvals would be in place, but said the process involves reviewing the proposal against the Species at Risk Act, consulting experts and considering regulations against feeding killer whales that were put in place to prevent habituation to humans.

J-pod recently drew an global spotlight when another orca, J35, was spotted pushing the body of her dead calf through the water for more than a week. One of the great concerns for the whale is that it is part of the endangered southern-resident orcas that have declined to a population of only 75.

Veterinarians in the USA are prepared to try to deliver antibiotics by pole or dart - or feed her with medication-dosed Chinook salmon - if she's still in US waters when they locate her.

J-50 was last seen Friday in Canadian waters, but she and the rest of the J-pod have not been seen since.

But veterinarians haven't spotted the 3½-year-old female killer whale in several days.

She said it became evident that "we needed to intervene to determine potentially what was the cause and whether there was anything we could do to assist her".




"I am sobbing. I can't believe she is still carrying her calf around".

"In terms of the licensing for the pole-mounted antibiotic injection or the darting mechanism. the activity from scientists has been approved, but we still need the application from the individuals, the researchers, the experts who want to undertake this", Cottrell said.

In the USA, biologists have prepared veterinary supplies, and dart and injection guns with antibiotics to rapidly respond when they see the killer whale. The whale would initially get just a few fish to see whether she takes it and how she and members of her pod respond before deciding whether to give her salmon dosed with medication.

"This is unprecedented in terms of what is occurring and some of the methodologies haven't been done on killer whales and it's an endangered population", Cottell said.

While it's not uncommon for southern resident killer whales to go unsighted for days, researchers are racing the clock to find the J pod because of the young whale's poor health.

Conditions had improved Wednesday morning, with less fog, making researchers more hopeful the animals will be found.

This is the largest rescue effort of a killer whale along the Canadian and American coast since 2002, when an orphaned northern resident killer whale known as Springer was captured and moved. She was the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.