A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year. To try and prevent systemic infection from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. (Photo from the NOAA Fisheries website)

Tagged grey whale off Vancouver Island given treatment after developing lesions

Canadian and U.S. whale experts administered antibiotics to the animal on March 31, April 1

A grey whale off the coast of Vancouver Island is being monitored by Canadian and U.S. researchers, as it has developed lesions after being tagged last year.

Three grey whales from the Pacific Coast feeding group were satellite tagged off the coast of Washington in September 2020 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – NOAA Fisheries. The tagging is part of a research project on the group of whales, conducted in collaboration between NOAA Fisheries, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Vancouver Aquarium.

The tags are aimed to gather information about whales’ behaviour, breeding areas, habitat, feeding and migratory patterns.

“We photographed this particular whale on Sept. 4 prior to tagging. At the time, we determined that the whale was in good condition and was a good candidate for tagging,” said Sharon Melin program manager for the California Current Ecosystem Program at NOAA Fisheries. “We only undertake tagging when we are confident the risk to the animal is low.”

READ ALSO: Rare bird spotted at Vancouver Island backyard feeder

The groups have been monitoring the whale over several months and collected images of it on Sept. 25, Oct. 4 and Dec. 9, 2020, with no abnormalities. However, on March 16, the whale was reported to have a wound around the tagging site, as well as two more lesions on the opposite side of its body.

A panel of U.S. and Canadian whale experts was formed following the veterinarian’s report, who gathered more information on the whale’s condition, and developed a response plan.

Dr. Martin Haulena, a veterinarian with the Vancouver Aquarium and Marine Mammal Rescue, said the wound near the tagging site appeared to have a radius of about 20 to 30 cm, and the corresponding patches were about the same size. It is still unknown why the lesions on the opposite side of the whale’s body occurred, and whether or not they are related to the tagging site.

To try and prevent anything more serious – such as systemic infection – from developing, the team administered antibiotics to the whale on March 31 and April 1. Antibiotics were administered using a CO2 rifle, which shot darts carrying the medicine into the whale’s body.

Along with the antibiotics, the team also collected a breath sample to further evaluate the whale’s well-being, and sample for any bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens of concern.

“The observed animal was also coughing up a little bit of mucus while moving, suggesting irritation in the airway. Antibiotics will help against any respiratory infection as well,” said Haulena.

The panel will continue to monitor the whale but has agreed the lesions did not pose an imminent danger to the animal’s health.

READ ALSO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

It can take anywhere from four months to a year for a tag to migrate out of a whale’s body. The tags act in a similar way as a splinter would in a human, and are designed to eventually work their way out of the whale’s body as the site continues to heal. Tags are implemented into the dorsal midline of the whale.

“We are hopeful that once this satellite tag is extruded, the tissue around the tagging site will heal. But we will continue to monitor the whale’s condition closely,” states the NOAA website. The satellite tag on this whale is said to be the last one remaining.

This tagging study was conducted to learn about the approximately 250 grey whales who make up the Pacific Coast feeding group. The group is part of the eastern north pacific grey population, which totals about 20,000.

“This group is so unique that they don’t migrate like the larger population does. Most travel to Alaska during the summer for breeding, but this group stops off our coast and spends the summer feeding here,” said Melin.

“We don’t know whether they stay all year round, and satellites help us find more information about how they are using the habitats and where they move. We consider them unique and we want to learn more about them.”


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Whales

Just Posted

Ken Rutherford, left, and Rick Lord of Port Alberni receive honours from the National Model Railroad Association—Pacific Northwest Region for 40 years of dedication to the preservation and presentation of railroad history. (PHOTO COURTESY PHYLLIS RUTHERFORD)
Model railroaders from Port Alberni honoured for rail preservation

Ken Rutherford and Rick Lord put on annual model railroad meet in Nanaimo for 35 years

Former Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ associate coach Brandon Shaw has been named head coach of the Coquitlam Express, also of the B.C. Hockey League. The announcement was made May 12, 2021. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)
BCHL’s Coquitlam Express hire new head coach

Brandon Shaw leaves Alberni Valley Bulldogs for bench boss job

The Alberni Golf Club is located on Cherry Creek Road. FILE PHOTO
ALBERNI GOLF: Men’s club tees up for Mother’s Day

Next Sunday, May 16 will be the Stableford competition

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
School district to choose new name for AW Neill Elementary in Port Alberni

School will not be renamed after Winston Joseph, says board

Carol Brown from the Alberni District Fall Fair committee, works on the online feed for the 2020 virtual Fall Fair on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (SONJA DRINKWATER/ Special to the AV News)
Alberni District Fall Fair wins national award for innovation

Long-running traditional Vancouver Island fair went virtual due to COVID-19

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

These are just a handful of Vancouver Island’s missing person cases. Clockwise from top left: Lisa Marie Young, Lindsey Nicholls, Micheal Dunahee, Jesokah Adkens, Belinda Cameron and Emma Fillipoff. (File photos courtesy of family members and police departments)
Could Victoria skull fragment bring closure to an Island missing persons mystery?

Skeletal remains found in Greater Victoria have not yet been identified

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read