NOAA: Ailing orca J50 spotted; crews ready to provide aid

Modesto Morganelli
Agosto 9, 2018

While the salmon-feeding idea has not yet received approval from Canadian officials, Cottrell says Canada is prepared to give the green light to a plan to administer antibiotics by dart or with a pole-mounted syringe, once it receives an application from its American counterparts.

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. "Where they are is not where these kind of activities could occur", said Paul Cottell, marine mammal coordinator for Fisheries Oceans Canada.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, said researchers on Wednesday saw the 20-year-old whale known as J35 carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

"What they're working on this determine which method they're going to use, [is] based on the dose that they have configured for her", Rowles told ABC News on Tuesday.

J50 and her brother in 2014.

The first step is to complete an assessment of the orca's health, he said. This will likely involve sampling J50's breath from a close range and collecting fecal samples.

There has also been a suggestion of attempting an oral administration of antibiotics via the live salmon, but injection remains the first priority.

However, if things go well, J50 might receive further treatment of salmon laced with medication.

Rowles said injections of antibiotics or sedatives have been given to other free-swimming whales or dolphins that were injured or entangled but it hasn't been done for free-swimming whales in this area.

Scientists and researchers are trying to find a way to help the ailing orca, killer whale, J50, who they said could die in a week or so.

"We are hopeful that there's still a chance that we will be able to assist her", Rowles said. One of the great concerns for the whale is that it is part of the endangered southern-resident orcas that have declined to a population of only 75. "But again, it's a big ocean out there so we can't be surprised if J-pod, K-pod and L-pod are staying out in areas where they are not accessible to us".

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.

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