Research

Ailing orca J50 declared dead, but feds to keep looking

Ailing orca J50 declared dead, but feds to keep looking

The southern resident killer whale J50, also known as Scarlet, hasn't been seen for several days and has been now presumed dead. The orcas have struggled with pollution, boat noise and, most severely, a dearth of their preferred prey, chinook salmon, because of dams, habitat loss and overfishing. "What J50 needed, and what her family continues to need, is healthy and abundant chinook salmon, which these orcas depend upon for survival".

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday morning the agency is stepping up its search efforts, including activating its stranding network, and asking airlines flying over San Juan Island to keep an eye out for the young whale.

Canada's Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, however, said J50 was seen the afternoon of September 9 off the San Juan Islands.

The Center for Whale Research said that the orca and her group became separated from the main pod somewhere in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. "If we are unable to restore the salmon that these orcas need, more whales will starve to death". As teams scrambled to find her on Thursday, she failed to appear with her pod once again, despite favourable sighting conditions.

The southern resident killer whales, which are so endangered there are just 75 individuals left, swim between Canadian and USA waters to Seattle and Vancouver ports through busy shipping lanes.

Another whale in the same pod, known as J35, triggered worldwide sympathy this summer when she kept the body of her dead calf afloat in waters for more than two weeks.

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Scientist began to be concerned about J50 in July.

J50 is seen in 2016 with its mother J16. "This is a very sick whale". "Teams were on the water searching yesterday and are increasing a broad transboundary search today with our on-water partners and counterparts in Canada", NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Michael Milstein said. But, he said the US and Canadian governments plan to continue searching Friday on the chance she's still alive. "We haven't given up hope".

Crews in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, 10 vessels, whale watch crews and other resources on both sides of the border were involved in the search.

Researchers have launched a search for a sick killer whale that hasn't been seen in days. Authorities also alerted a network of people who respond when marine mammals wash ashore.

Joseph Gaydos, a wildlife veterinarian with the SeaDoc Society in Washington state, saw J50 a week ago and described her as the thinnest killer whale he'd ever seen.