U.S., Canadian researchers consider capturing ailing orca J50

Southern resident killer whale, who swims along B.C. coast, has been focus since August

A rescue operation involving “hands-on physical examination” may be the next step to help an young, emaciated southern resident killer whale swimming around B.C. waters.

On Wednesday, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said capturing J50, a four-year-old orca suffering from starvation, would only be an option if it didn’t harm other whales in J Pod and is the only option to allow her to contribute to the recovery of the population.

“The overriding priority of rescue is to evaluate, treat and rehabilitate J50 to give her the greatest chance of survival while ensuring her return and reunification with her family as soon as possible,” the agency said.

WATCH: Ailing orca J50 gets 2nd dart of antibiotics by B.C. vet

U.S. and Canadian researchers have been tracking the mammal for weeks, trying to find ways to treat her. Scientists confirmed last week through fecal samples that she is suffering from parasitic worms. J50 also has “peanut-head syndrome,” in which her head is smaller than her body as a result of malnutrition. She has been given antibiotics twice using darts and was last spotted Friday.

WATCH: Conservation groups sue Ottawa to protect endangered killer whales

NOAA’s Lynne Barre said that despite efforts, J50’s health has been deteriorating. Marine biologists are looking to give her deworming medication as soon as they can, but results so far are less-than positive.

“Based on her current condition, and we are really concerned about her ability to survive,” she said.

Next steps could also include rapid treatment and return to the sea, or short-term care and rehab to improve her chances of survival, officials said, adding she would be returned back to the ocean once well enough.

“Remaining in captivity permanently does not meet out our objective and is an outcome that we very much intend to avoid,” said Chris Yates, NOAA assistant regional administrator.

Rescuing J50 would only happen if she became stranded or separated from her pod, which includes her mother.

These next steps won’t be taken before consultation with the public, the agency said. Two public meetings will be hosted this week in Washington State.

The response by officials in helping the ailing orca have been met with some criticism by conservationists. Seven conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government last week, calling for more protection over endangered orcas along the coastline.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. to serve Riot Brewing’s dark mild to visiting dignitaries

Just in time for their second anniversary celebration, the folks at Riot… Continue reading

Cassidy home lost to fire, but family and 14 dogs are safe

Firefighters were called to a blaze Wednesday morning at house near Nanaimo Airport

Gas prices on Vancouver Island to drop six cents

But a ‘volatile’ market could lead to increases in the coming weeks

LRCA receives $3.6-million in provincial funding for affordable housing project

The Ladysmith Resources Centre Association is receiving $3.6-million in provincial funding to… Continue reading

Ladysmith researchers shed new light on First World War effort

John and Esther Sharp visited the Ladysmith Archives a year ago to… Continue reading

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Cowichan school district defends lack of notice to parents following elementary student arrest

Officials with School District 79 stand by their decision not to send out an alert.

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Most Read