VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The southern resident killer whale known as “J50” is now presumed dead after scientists tracking the emaciated orca where unable to find her.
The Centre for Whale Research say crews were out on a vessel looking for the three-year-old orca for three days but efforts to find her came up empty.
“Her last known sighting was Friday, September 7 by our colleagues at NOAA, SeaDoc, and others,” read a release from the centre.
The whale has lost a “considerable amount of weight” over the past several months and any attempts to administer medicine were unsuccessful.
The Centre also says the orca was struggling to keep up with her pod for several months.
“Watching J50 during the past three months is what extinction looks like when survival is threatened for all by food deprivation and lack of reproduction,” read the release from the centre. “Not only are the Southern Resident killer whales dying and unable to reproduce sufficiently, but also their scarce presence in the Salish Sea is an indication that adequate food is no longer available for them here, or along the coast.”
J50 was one of only 75 Southern Resident Killer whales travelling between BC and California.
“It’s a very low number and it’s a number that keeps decreasing,” said Martin Haulena with the centre.
Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they are not giving up hope.
The team will continue the search for J50 both on the water and in the air.
Things have to change
Meanwhile, Chief Bob Chamberlin with the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation says he is deeply saddened by the loss.
“In the past 10 years 42 whales have died with only three being born,” Chamberlin said. “And certainly I’m not a mathematician, but I look at that and think ‘this is, we are now witnessing the extinction of something that British Columbians and Canadians really do appreciate and that’s the wild orcas in our oceans.”
Chamberlin claimed the government is not doing enough to protect the whales.
“We’ve witnessed two deaths in the past six months now of whales in the southern part of Vancouver Island, and for me its a pretty simple equation: If there’s no food for the orca to eat, they’re not going to live,” he added.
“For First Nations people, we take the environment very seriously,” Chamberlin added.
Researchers have not said what exactly caused J50 to get sick.
-With files from Hana Mae Nassar and the Canadian Press