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

Alberni Valley schools celebrate First Nations culture

First Nations Spring Festival hosted by SD70 and NTC

Celebrate with Cycle Alberni for Bike to Work and School Week

Celebration stations kick off at Jumping Slug Community Cyclery

Two Alberni Valley hockey players win bronze at NAHC finals

Team BC male awarded a bronze medal after controversial decision

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Port Alberni to hold Walk for Dog Guides on May 26

Fundraising event one of 300 across Canada

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Two cats die in house fire in Nanaimo

Fire happened just after 2 p.m. Sunday on Fifth Street, one resident displaced

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read