Endangered southern resident orca J34 found dead near Sechelt
Published Wednesday, December 21, 2016 5:15PM PST Last Updated Friday, December 23, 2016 10:04AM PST
Update: A necropsy has revealed the deceased orca suffered blunt force trauma to the head, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Original story: A member of B.C.’s endangered southern resident killer whale population has been found dead near the Sunshine Coast, federal officials confirm.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed J34, a 22-foot-long, 18-year-old orca in the prime of his life was found dead near Sechelt on Dec. 20.
A local resident spotted the whale, at first thinking it was an overturned boat. When he realized it was an orca, he called it in to the BC Marine Mammal Response Network.
DFO, Vancouver Aquarium, Coast Guard and members of the Sechelt First Nation all searched for the orca’s body, which was spotted by a tug boat and eventually towed to shore.
“The weather was terrible in the morning, the heavy seas and the high winds,” said DFO spokesman Paul Cottrell.
A cause of death has not yet been determined.
A DFO spokesman said a necropsy was to take place Dec. 21, weather permitting.
Cottrell said the Sechelt First Nation will eventually take the animal’s skeleton for ceremonial purposes.
The number of southern resident killer whales has dropped in recent decades and the animals were listed as endangered in 2005.
After the October 2016 deaths of a 23-year-old female, J28, and likely her 10-month-old calf, experts from the Center for Whale Research said dwindling food sources were a main factor in the population’s decline.