Quantcast

Orca Whale J50 'Missing and Now Presumed Dead'

Animals

The ailing orca whale J50 was declared "missing and now presumed dead" by the Center for Whale Research Thursday, after a three-day search by the organization in the waters between Washington state and Canada failed to locate her.

She would be the third Southern Resident killer whale to die since June, bringing their numbers down to 74.


J50 belonged to the same pod of Southern Resident killer whales as J35, the mother who captured international sympathy by carrying her dead calf for 17 days last month.

"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," Center for Whale Research Founding Director Ken Balcomb wrote in a press release. "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 had been growing weaker since 2017, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had decided this week to take her into captivity in order to treat and potentially rehabilitate her, The Seattle Times reported.

But a massive search Thursday conducted by NOAA, the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Soundwatch, whale-watching boats and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter in Washington and the Marine Mammal Rescue vessel, the M Charles midwater patrol vessel, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Straitwatch and a Coast Guard helicopter in Canada did not result in any sightings.

She was last seen one week ago, Sept. 7, and was absent from a gathering of around 60 whales from her own J pod, as well as K and L pods, on Thursday.

NOAA spokesperson Michael Milstein told The Seattle Times his agency had not given up entirely, despite Thursday's declaration.

"We have had a huge amount of help today, and it is really important that if she is there that we find her," Milstein told The Seattle Times. "We certainly have not determined at this point that we are giving up. And we are determining that day by day, we are not setting a timeline."

The capture effort was the last in a series of increasingly dramatic attempts to save J50, who had gotten so emaciated that she had trouble swimming and keeping her head above water.

Veterinarians and biologists in the U.S. and Canada working with NOAA sampled her breath, injected her with antibiotics and fed her Chinook salmon off the back of a boat.

Wildlife advocates emphasized the importance of restoring the population of Chinook salmon, the orcas' primary food-source, in the Salish Sea.

'It is a heartbreaking reminder that we cannot save these whales on a case-by-case individual basis. What J50 needed, and what her family continues to need, is healthy and abundant Chinook salmon, which these orcas depend upon for survival," Defenders of Wildlife Northwest Representative Robb Krehbiel said in a statement. "If we are unable to restore the salmon that these orcas need, more whales will starve to death."

The Center for Whale Research agreed with this diagnosis.

It called for the restoration of the natural Chinook salmon runs throughout their historic range and recommended the breaching of the Lower Snake River Dams in Washington, which the center said kill millions of salmon.

Salmon populations in Canada's Fraser River have been harmed by overfishing and pollution from mining, chemical spills and industrial and agricultural development, the Center for Whale Research said.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less