'Considerable fog' complicates search for ailing orca J50

Official says paperwork poses an issue to treat killer whale in Canadian waters

Official says paperwork poses an issue to treat killer whale in Canadian waters

J50 and J35 have not been spotted since J-pod swam out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the west coast of Vancouver Island late Thursday and Friday.

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans said its researchers sighted the female killer whale J50, also known as Scarlet, swimming with her mother and the rest of their pod.

Any treatment or close approaches could disturb the whales, interrupt their foraging patterns and put them at further risk, she said. If she takes the fish and keeps it down, biologists may also try to medicate fish before feeding her.

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.

"Her body condition is on par with past situation we've seen where a calf did disappear", Lynn Barr of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association said during a conference call. One of the great concerns for the whale is that it is part of the endangered southern-resident orcas that have declined to a population of only 75. As a young female, J50 holds particularly high value because of her future reproductive capacity.

But getting the tests done has been delayed because of weather and fog in the Port Renfrew area near where the emaciated endangered orca was seen on Tuesday afternoon.

Potential treatment options include giving the whale antibiotics using a dart injector, a long-pole syringe or, possibly, a live salmon.

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"We know what's going to happen if we don't intervene at this point", said Michael Kundu, a whale advocate.

The search is on again for J50, the ailing killer whale, in a cross-border effort to save her life.

"As you can tell we've had a lot of challenges in seeing them daily", Milstein said.

While it's not uncommon for southern resident killer whales to go unsighted for days, researchers were racing the clock to find J-pod because of the young whale's poor health.

An endangered killer whale that has prompted an global rescue effort won't receive antibiotics by dart or by fish if it's found in Canadian water today.

Barre said multiple boat teams were on standby Monday to be in the position to collect breath droplets and feces from J50, which could provide better diagnostic information for why this orca is in markedly worse condition and malnourished compared to her relatives.

Neither darting a free-ranging killer whale with antibiotics, nor feeding it medicated fish has ever been attempted before, Cottrell said. She was the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.

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