Canada’s DFO crews spot orca, ailing but still alive off Vancouver Island

Lummi Hereditary Chief Bill James center, leads a blessing aboard a Lummi Nation Natural Resources Enforcement boat before departing Bellingham

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

The plight of J50 and J35's extended grieving process have focused global attention on the endangered southern resident killer whales, whose numbers have dwindled to 75. They are waiting for her to show up again in Washington state waters so they can zip out on a boat to do a health assessment, said Teri Rowles, marine mammal health and stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

American and Canadian scientists are considering a Hail Mary effort to save an endangered four-year-old killer whale, known as J50, which appears emaciated, lethargic and has lost about 20 per cent of its body weight.

Scientists in Canada and the US have been working together to save her life.

The orca, which was last seen Friday, is part of an endangered population that has dwindled to just 75 whales. J50 needs the nutrition not only for the calories, but to rehydrate her.

Milstein says researchers with Fisheries and Ocean Canada also spotted another member of the same pod - the 3 ½-year-old whale J50 that is emaciated. The pod has been keeping to the outer coast and west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and environs.

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They'll decide then whether to administer antibiotics using a dart injector or a long pole syringe.

Veterinarians in the US are prepared to try to deliver antibiotics by pole or dart - or feed her with medication-dosed Chinook salmon - if she's still in USA waters when they locate her.

Michael Milstein with NOAA Fisheries said J50 was seen with her mother, J16, which is a good sign.

DFO research crews have been out on the water every day trying to locate J50.

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.

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She said weather conditions were improving, so they were hoping for another sighting in order to collect fecal and breath samples from J50.

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.

"We are hopeful that 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 causing her decline".

Biologists have also considered feeding the orca salmon enhanced with vitamins or medication to try and boost her health, which would have to be undertaken on a daily basis. She was the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.

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