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

Neighbours fear impact of tent city residents on Goldstream Provincial Park

Langford residents opposed to campers voice concerns at campground gate

Province now allowing tent city campers to stay at Goldstream Park

Contrary to earlier reports, Ministry of Environment says there is no hard deadline for campers to leave, park open to public

Victorians for Tranportation Choice survey Greater Victoria election candidates

Mayoral and council candidates from across Greater Victoria face 12 questions

Dementia Helpline seeks volunteers after dramatic increase in calls

First Link Dementia Helpline for those who lives with dementia or care partners

United Way asks Victoria to share local love

2018 campaign aims to raise another $5M

Horvat leads Canucks to 4-3 shootout victory over Kings

Vancouver dumps L.A. in NHL pre-season contest

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

VIDEO: Hundreds line highway as family brings home body of B.C. teen

Northern B.C. showed their support by lining Hwy 16 as Jessica Patrick’s body returned to Smithers.

Why Whistler for ski jumping in 2026? Calgary proposal gets pushback

Calgary 2026 proposes re-using the 2010 ski jumping venue Whistler for that sport and nordic

Despite progress, threat of 232 tariffs dominates NAFTA negotiations

Any deal is seen to require congressional approval before Dec. 1 to survive new Mexican government

B.C. MP Todd Doherty receives award for saving man who collapsed on a plane

Conservative MP was flying from Vancouver to Prince George, B.C., in June last year

Alleged border jumper from Oregon facing 2 charges after police chase in B.C.

Colin Patrick Wilson charged with dangerous operation of motor vehicle, flight from a peace officer

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in 22 per cent of B.C. cities

Most Read