Ailing Orca Feared Dead

Photo: NOAA

Coast Guard personnel are assisting members of NOAA's Fisheries Service in the search for the missing Southern Resident killer whale, J50.

An intense search effort was launched Thursday in which a Coast Guard helicopter crew from Air Station Port Angeles, several NOAA researchers in separate boats and multiple whale watching vessels and organizations searched for the 31/2-year-old whale.

J50 was last seen west of San Juan Island last Friday. On Thursday there were up to 60 whales form the J, K, and L pods observed, however, J50 was not sighted with them.

Coast Guard personnel continued the search Friday in coordination with NOAA Fisheries responders. If J50 is spotted, the Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound Captain of the Port will establish a temporary marine safety perimeter around the whale while NOAA personnel respond to the area.

NOAA Fisheries requests aircraft and mariners pay special attention to Rosario Strait and the south end of Georgia Strait up to the Canadian border. The orcas have been sighted there for two consecutive days. J50 may be alive and separated from her pod or lagging significantly behind. J50 is 13-feet long and weighs approximately 550 kilograms.

Veterinarians say J50 has lost more than 20% of her weight and they don’t know why.

They’ve given the whale antibiotics, but they haven’t helped.

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