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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney Lions, Peninsula-raised designer craft nearly 200 masks for area seniors

182 masks were distributed to four Saanich Peninsula care homes

What Sooke School District schools will look like on first day of reopening

No water fountains, rotating schedules and face masks not required

Cancelled cruise ships costs Victoria more than $130 million

Transport Canada bans ships until end of October in response to COVID-19

Point-guard lobs no-look, three-pointer for Oak Bay High video

Trick-shot only took three times, says Oak Bay teen

Saanich residents sound alarm after second owl dies of rat poison

Great Horned Owl found in Kings Park killed by three rodenticides

VIDEO: Victoria dental staff dance to *NSYNC to promote reopening

Urban Smiles staff ‘want you back’ after closure in response to pandemic

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Most Read