Ailing killer whale J50 spotted off coast of Port Renfrew
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2018 10:07AM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 7, 2018 6:48PM PDT
An emaciated endangered orca that is believed to be close to death has been spotted alive off the coast of Vancouver Island.
J50, a four-year-old female southern resident killer whale, was spotted with other members of her pod including her mother off the coast of Port Renfrew Tuesday, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Experts were concerned because the orca and her pod had not been spotted since Friday.
They were desperate to find J50 and administer antibiotics because the young while is believed to be starving and possibly suffering from infection..
"Noticeably different-looking from two-and-a-half weeks ago," said Linda Rhodes, microbiologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. "[It] suggests that there's some rapid changes occurring, something very serious is happening."
The animal's poor health has sparked efforts in both Canada and the U.S. to save her, with teams from NOAA, the Vancouver Aquarium, the DFO and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife taking part in the search.
"They have not seen a whale that has deteriorated to this point recover before, so the chances are long. We have to admit that," said NOAA spokesman Michael Milstein.
Even though the whale has been spotted, it remains unclear if the teams will be able to help her in time.
Veterinarians in the U.S .are prepared to try to deliver antibiotics by pole or dart if she's located in U.S. waters, but officials in Canada are still dealing with the paper work required to ensure their efforts to help don't harm the rest of J-pod. Another solution could include trying to feed the orca with Chinook salmon dosed with medication.
The race to save J50, a female with the potential to reproduce, is considered crucial for the endangered southern resident killer whale population that stands at just 75 whales.
With files from The Canadian Press.