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

Trail cannabis shop gets green light from province

The Higher Path hopes to open doors in next couple of weeks

Man spotted with shotgun in East Trail leads to weapons discovery

RCMP recover numerous weapons and stolen items after search on Fifth Ave.

Butterflies for Rossland brother and sister duo heading to world ski championships

Remi and Jasmine Drolet will represent Canada in Finland

Fans egg-static Humpty statue staying in Castlegar

Local business donation ensures well-loved statue will remain in place

UK lawmakers reject Brexit deal in 432-202 vote

House of Commons votes against the deal struck between Britain’s government and the EU

Millennial Money: Don’t let Instagram envy get you into debt

A full 48 per cent of U.S. households have credit card debt

Jury debates fate of man accused of killing 12-year-old B.C. girl 40 years ago

Police allege Garry Handlen told a cop how he abducted, sexually assaulted and strangled Monica Jack in May 1978

B.C. city’s computer system suffered malware attack last year

No personal data was compromised when City of Cranbrook was hit by ransomware last spring.

Letters on way to all homeowners in B.C. speculation tax communities

Property owners have to register to avoid vacant-home tax

New orca calf in Salish Sea ‘healthy and active’

Birth cause for celebration but things still dire genetically, expert says

Good Samaritan rescues cat found in heaps of garbage at B.C. landfill

The cat was abandoned and left to die at the Foothills Boulevard Regional Landfill, the BC SPCA says

East Kootenay town pitches $80m multi-purpose community centre

City of Fernie vies for slice of cost-sharing pie to integrate recreation facilities into new centre

Most Read