Missing southern resident killer whale J50 declared dead by scientists

James Marshall
September 14, 2018

J50 has not been seen since last Friday.

"Unfortunately J50 has not been seen in several days of favorable conditions and repeated sightings of her pod and family group, including J16, her mother", the agency said in a news release.

The orcas have struggled with pollution, boat noise and, most severely, a lack 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".

"We're watching a population marching toward extinction", Ken Balcomb of the Centre for Whale Research said on Thursday.

"The message brought by J50, and by J35 and her dead calf a few weeks ago, is that the [the whales] are running out of reproductive capacity and extinction of this population is looming", the group wrote.

A sick young orca killer whale from a critically endangered population off the United States coast has been declared dead after a lengthy search turned up nothing. "If we are unable to restore the salmon that these orcas need, more whales will starve to death". The joint Canada-U.S. rescue team has twice used a dart to inject the whale with antibiotics, but her condition appeared to be worsening before she disappeared.

Still, she survived, and for a while restored hope that she could help her pod - part of an embattled population of southern resident killer whales known to frequent the waters near Washington state - to rebuild their numbers.

Another whale in the same pod, known as J35, triggered global sympathy this summer when she kept the body of her dead calf afloat in waters for more than two weeks. Efforts to save the sick whale have not been successful. But, he said the USA and Canadian governments plan to continue searching Friday on the chance she's still alive.

J50's condition has been getting worse and scientists were considering a last-ditch plan to capture the emaciated killer whale for treatment.

On its website, the NOAA said it was increasing its search boundaries Thursday with its "on-water partners and counterparts in Canada". The West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network has been alerted.

"She was like this little Energizer bunny that just keeps going and going, and definitely captured our hearts", he said.

Balcomb said he has a boat out looking for her and would join in the search later in the day to make an official announcement.

J50's likely death is just another sign of the perilous situation the southern resident killer whale population is facing.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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