Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

Endangered orca that sparked worldwide rescue plan spotted in B.C. waters

Endangered orca that sparked worldwide rescue plan spotted in B.C. waters

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans said its researchers sighted the female killer whale J50, also known as Scarlet, swimming with her mother and the rest of their pod.

Canadian and USA scientists are particularly anxious to save J50, a juvenile female that has the potential to reproduce and assist with the population's recovery.

But Paul Cottrell of Fisheries and Oceans Canada says paperwork is still being looked at to be sure any effort to treat J-50 in Canadian waters does not affect other members of the 75-member southern resident pod. The whale would initially get just a few fish to see whether she takes it and how she and members of her pod respond before deciding whether to give her salmon dosed with medication.

J-pod recently drew an worldwide spotlight when another orca, J35, was spotted pushing the body of her dead calf through the water for more than a week.

"It is very possible that she has succumbed at this point and that we may never see her again", Rowles told reporters Tuesday.

"We don't know exactly what is wrong with her", Rowles said in a teleconference.

If J50 is in American waters and needs antibiotics, Rowles said the next step will be to administer an antibiotic that lasts 10 to 14 days.

A separate team of whale scientists was working Monday on how to deliver live salmon to J50 if supplemental feeding is authorized by NOAA headquarters. They may drop medicated fish next, if that goes smoothly.

But the race is still on as scientists try to get close to J50 and administer antibiotics, because the young while is believed to be starving and possibly suffering from infection.

"It is a long-lasting antibiotic but based on what we can learn from the sampling we may consider additional treatments for fungal infections, for parasites, so there are additional medications we could consider to complement the antibiotic treatments", said Lynne Barre, recovery coordinator with the NOAA, said.

"The big question is, can we craft public policy that can make a difference in the future of the orca, and by doing so make a positive difference in how we live in Puget Sound", Purce said in an interview Monday.

This is the largest rescue effort of a killer whale along the Canadian and American coast since 2002, when an orphaned northern resident killer whale known as Springer was captured and moved.

An emaciated three-year-old orca that has become the focus of a cross-border rescue effort was spotted in US waters Wednesday afternoon. She was the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.

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