As of Sept. 13, some researchers presume that a missing adolescent orca lost her struggle to recover from illness and emaciation amongst her dwindling endangered orca population. Others haven’t given up the fight.
Staff from the Center for Whale Research conclude that the missing J50 is likely deceased, as National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Fisheries continue to look for the young orca.
The 3-year-old Southern resident killer whale has not been seen since Sept. 7. Staff from the Center for Whale Research and NOAA Fisheries recently spotted her pod and family, including her mother J16, without J50.
The endangered species population, according to the Center for Whale Research, now totals 74 whales, the lowest number in almost 30 years.
NOAA staff is searching for J50 in both U.S. and Canadian waters. The West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the U.S. Coast Guard, and local airlines were also notified to help. Coast guard staff report that if J50 is found, they will establish a temporary safety perimeter around her while NOAA personnel respond.
Coast Guard staff report that searchers should look in Rosario Strait and the south end of Georgia Strait to Canada. J50 is 13-feet long and weighs about 550 kilograms.
“J50 may be alive and separated from her pod or lagging significantly behind,” read a statement from the coast guard.
For NOAA’s updates on J50, visit bit.ly/NOAAJ50J35 and report strandings at 1-866-767-6114.
Center for Whale Research Founder Ken Balcomb has consistently called to increase runs for the endangered Chinook salmon, the primary food for Southern resident orcas. To Balcomb, J50’s presumed death was a result in inaction.
“… Humans convene task forces and conference calls that result in nothing, or worse than nothing, diverting attention and resources from solving the underlying ecological problems that will ultimately make this once-productive region unlivable for all,” he said.
For more about the orcas, visit the Center for Whale Research’s website at www.whaleresearch.com.
Reporter Heather Spaulding contributed to this article.