Endangered orca that sparked international rescue plan spotted in BC waters

Lummi Nation Chairman Jay Julius center helps move a live wild chinook salmon to a tribal boat. The Chinook was caught Monday by nontribal reef-net fishers off Lummi Island in Legoe Bay Monday

This is the largest rescue effort of a killer whale along the Canadian and American coast since 2002, when an orphaned northern resident killer whale known as Springer was captured and moved.

The four-year old whale is endangered and is starving to death.

With that hope - and under the worldwide attention on J-Pod since a mother whale carried her dead newborn calf for days - officials on both sides of the border are preparing to act.

"At this time, we don't actually have a diagnosed pathology other than malnutrition for J50", said Sheila Thornton, a DFO research scientist.

The weather and the location of the orcas are complicating factors that could prevent intervention, said Paul Cottrell, a marine mammals co-ordinator with DFO. As of Sunday night, biologists didn't know how the ailing orca was faring, nor whether Tahlequah was still carrying her dead calf, according to Soundwatch, a nonprofit group that's been monitoring the animals and helping keep boaters away from them.

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"If it's determined that antibiotics would be useful, then antibiotics through injection is going to be our best course rather than antibiotics through food, because we recognize that we won't able to treat her every day", Rowles said.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, said researchers on Wednesday saw the 20-year-old whale known as J35 carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

Milstein said it was good to see the whale alive because she hadn't been sighted since Friday, sparking concern that she may have succumbed to her condition.

Rowles said injections of antibiotics or sedatives have been given to other free-swimming whales or dolphins that were injured or entangled but it hasn't been done for free-swimming whales in this area.

NOAA says it has legal authorization to try something it's never done before, which is feed the whale live medicated chinook salmon, as a way of delivering oral antibiotics.

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Island for a dying orca.

Rowles said such imagery has shed more light on the whales' overall body condition and growth over time. "They could initially hear the whales through hydrophones and then they located them". "We're hopeful that J-pod will come back into inland waters where we can continue our work for sample collection and veterinary assessment".

A task force on orca recovery, convened by Gov. Jay Inslee in March, will meet Tuesday in Wenatchee. A final report is due in November.

Female orcas have had problems during pregnancy because of nutritional stress, and numerous calves who have been born in recent years have since died.

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