Thursday, June 13, 2024

Biologists make contact with sick killer whale J50 off coast of San Juan Island


As both the local and national community continue to watch killer whale J35 carry her dead calf, another one of the J-pod orcas has become a cause for concern from scientists.

J50, also known as Scarlet, is a three-year-old killer whale who was identified by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries to be in poor health in early August. 

On August 2, NOAA biologists determined that Scarlet, who appeared emaciated and lethargic, was “in poor condition and may not survive,” and worked to establish next steps to help her.

After five days in which they couldn’t locate Scarlet, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) spotted her with her mother J16 on August 7 near the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and again on August 8 in U.S. waters off the Olympic Peninsula.

On August 9, NOAA response teams were able to reach J-pod in Canada, and followed them into U.S. waters near San Juan Island. 

Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Marty Haulena was able take a sample of Scarlet’s breath to assess her risk of infection, and administer antibiotics.

The next step will be determining whether to move forward with a trial feeding.

DFO has asked that boaters stay at least 500 metres away from Scarlet. 

The NOAA is continuing to update the public on the status of Scarlet and other southern resident killer whales on their website.  

Myles Sauer
Former staff editor and writer at Victoria Buzz.

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