Responders looking for the J pod (@NOAAFish_WCRO/Twitter)

Canadian laws could prevent emaciated killer whale from being treated

J50, also known as Scarlet, is one of 75 southern resident killer whales in B.C.’s coastal waters

Scientists are working around the clock to help a female orca last seen just days ago near Vancouver Island, emaciated and lethargic, but Canadian restrictions could pose a barrier.

J50, also known as Scarlet, is one of 75 southern resident killer whales that travel along the B.C. coast and down to California. There has been growing worry after scientists confirmed she is suffering from a syndrome called “peanut head,” where her head appears too small for her body and is most likely due to not getting enough food. A white spot has also been spotted near her blow hole, which could indicate an infection.

“Yesterday, we staged veterinarian supplies, including injection darts and antibiotics, in the area so that we could rapidly respond and treat the animal if sighted today and deemed necessary,” said Teri Rowles, a veterinarian with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told reporters in an update Tuesday.

J50 and her pod were last seen Saturday near Sooke, outside Victoria, but hasn’t been seen since perhaps because of the fog in the area, according to Paul Cottrell, marine mammals coordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

READ MORE: Cdn, U.S. scientists consider novel plan to save endangered orca on death’s door

Last week, American and Canadian scientists said responders would attempt to feed the underweight killer whale chinook salmon filled with medication if needed. It’s believed this kind of strategy hasn’t been used before.

Once spotted, biologists will do a health assessment, grab a sample collection, and, if necessary, administer antibiotics.

“Right now, we are concerned about infection, but we don’t know with what or what organ – all we have to go on is her physical condition and that decline [in condition],” Rowles said.

But even though veterinarians on either side of the border are working together, if J50 is spotted swimming in Canadian waters, feeding the animal would not be allowed under DFO regulations.

The Canadian government has limited the chinook salmon fishery recently to help the recovery of the southern resident killer whales. It also imposed a minimum distance of 200 metres for vessels to stay away from killer whales and is conducting research on the impact of pollution.

Cottrell said the government is working quickly to license a permit for the food and medication darts needed.

J50 might also have died, Rowles said, as infections, entanglement and ship strikes are the leading causes of death for these animals.

At this point, scientists are just waiting to spot the pod again and get close enough to assess her, she added.

“It is very possible she has succumbed at this point and we may never see her again,” Rowles said. “We are hopeful there is still a chance that we will be able to assist her with medical treatment to give her enough time to get nourishment and treat infections if indeed that is what is causing her decline.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Significant damage at Child & Family Services after April 22 collision

100 Mile House RCMP believe they have located the vehicle involved, are working to locate the driver

Firearm seized, arrests made along Scott Road

100 Mile House RCMP responded to a firearm complaint on April 23

Summer Festival looking for volunteers and vendors

“There’s lots of time to still get involved” says events coordinator Robyn Angus

South Cariboo looking for athletes for 55+ BC Games

The 2019 Games will be held in Kelowna in September

Peter Skene Ogden students organize community-wide clean up

Environmental Club will also hand out seed bombs on April 23

What’s age got to do with it? B.C. couple with 45-year gap talks happy marriage

An Armstrong couple that has 45-year age gap began turning heads after being featured on show Extreme Love.

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

B.C.’s largest Vaisakhi festival target of threatening Facebook post: Surrey RCMP

Police say they are investigating the posts on Facebook, after local MLA forwarded screenshots

Pug life: B.C. town boasts waggish list of dog names

Freedom-of-information request lists most ‘pupular’ dog names registered in White Rock

VIDEO: Fish farming company launches $30-million vessel to treat salmon for sea lice in B.C. waters

Freshwater treatment an improvement but fish farms should be removed from sea, says conservationist

Singh says childhood abuse steeled him for scrutiny and stress of politics

He recounts the assaults for the first time in his book Love & Courage

Despite five extra weeks’ parental leave in Canada, dads still face stigma: survey

One reason people said dads don’t need leave is because they can just bond with their kids at weekend

Vintage bottles, magic cards, a 1969 Playboy: Quirky items found in historic B.C. buildings

Crews set aside some of the funkier pieces emerging from the construction rubble

Most Read