Scientists concerned about endangered orca still pushing body of her calf

Audrey Hill
August 13, 2018

The young orca J50 was spotted off British Columbia and teams will do a health assessment if conditions in the waters between the United States and Canada allow, said Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries.

The team led by the USA agency lacks a permit to feed the sick whale live salmon in Canadian waters, though it had one for medical treatment.

The Latest on the plan to save a young emaciated orca. But catches of chinook are too unreliable for both people and whales to get enough fish for J50; at least 15 hatchery fish will be transported for the whale, with more in reserve.

The teams were, however, racing out to sea to help another ailing young killer whale in the same critically endangered pod.

As National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA) spokesman Michael Milstein reportedly stated, "Everything is on the table". If things go well, the whale may then be given live salmon dosed with medication. She was fed live salmon in the pen. A King County research vessel drove alongside, also carrying fish, to provide support.

A veterinarian examined the orca. "So we basically have to get within five metres of the whale", Hanson said.

According the researchers, the orca and her pod are going through "a deep grieving process". Not wanting to let its body sink to the ocean floor, she nudged it toward the surface as she made her way through the Pacific, off the coast of Canada and the northwestern US.

The fish-eating orcas that frequent the inland waters of Washington state are down to 75 animals, and there hasn't been a successful birth since 2015.

"That's what this is really all about".

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NOAA coordinator Teri Rowles said while they don't know what kind of infection Scarlet has, they are concerned about it.

They also face overlapping threats from toxic pollution and noise and disturbances from boats.

Researchers took breath samples, and a drone flown above the whales Wednesday showed that J50 is much skinnier and her body condition has gotten worse.

USA and Canadian scientists said they were concerned about the mother's condition and would keep monitoring it but have no immediate plans to help it or remove the calf.

Experts at the Whale Museum on San Juan Island have been monitoring the whale since her calf died last month.

The Puget Sound calf was the first in three years to be born to the dwindling population of endangered southern resident killer whales. It returned to its family of whales in Canada later that year and in 2013 was seen with its new calf.

Researchers take breath samples of the orca known as J50 on July 21, 2018.

A team of whale experts has injected an ailing killer whale with antibiotics in a rare effort to save her. The salmon-feeding plan is still under review. The NOAA response team treated J50 with a long-acting broad-spectrum antibiotic through a dart while they await results of the whale's health assessment.

Brad Hanson, a USA research biologist, said the whales were too far out to sea previously for the treatment and assessment team to reach them from Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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