Orca mom and baby doing well after a rocky start – video shows that more (former) SeaWorld killer whales will be bred

Morgan with her new calf. Credit: Loro Parque

After a worrisome few days in which the whale calf needed supplemental feeding by park staff, the still unnamed baby orca is no longer being bottle-fed. The mother, Morgan, was rescued and rehabilitated in the Netherlands in 2010 before being transferred to Loro Parque, Spain where she was bred with SeaWorld orcas. (The Whale Sanctuary Project has a great summary of how Morgan wound up at a Spanish zoo.)

Ex -SeaWorld representative talks about breeding the whales in Loro Parque – these orcas belonged to SeaWorld until relatively recently. (Published on Mar 30, 2018):

Morgan and her calf update

(From Loro Parque).

Nothing matters more to us than the health and wellbeing of the animals in our care. As we updated earlier this week, a team of veterinarians and external consultants has been monitoring the progress of Morgan and her calf around the clock since birth.

The primary focus during these crucial first days has been ensuring the calf is getting all the nourishment it needs. While natural breastfeeding is always the preferred option, Morgan’s milk production has been below what is needed in these first few days. Therefore, the veterinary team has assisted by temporarily bottle feeding the calf while giving Morgan the chance to increase her milk supply.

We are glad to say that mother and calf have now resumed natural breastfeeding and the experts are pleased with the strong bond the pair have developed. With the help of our state-of-the-art facilities and assistance from world-leading experts, the team continues to closely observe the situation to ensure that Morgan and her baby establish a good, healthy and natural feeding routine. However, we are, of course, ready to step in to help if there is the slightest concern that the calf’s nutritional needs are not being met.

We wish to thank everyone who has been in contact with us in these past few days and have been touched by the many messages of support. We will keep you posted with all the latest information as things unfold.

Dolphins are eating corroded metal resulting in having their stomachs pumped. Sea Life Park, Hawaii

A leak from a recent private inspection alleges the park covered up imminent building collapses, endangering the public and animals.
Photos and media release by Keiko Conservation:
WAIMANALO, HAWAII, Sept. 24, 2018 – Details of a building inspection at Sea Life Park were recently leaked, sparking serious public safety concerns. As to why the public hasn’t been alerted of this issue, “the engineer’s final report was not released, they were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement… The building is collapsing but the company doesn’t close the building according to the General Manager Valerie King, because it makes too much money.”
One building in desperate need of repair was reported to be the Hawaiian Ocean Theater, where the dolphin shows are held. “The structure is an open beam structure, with 12 glue-lams 40 feet long, weighing 10 tons or more,” the leak stated. Upon inspection, an engineer allegedly claimed “all of the brackets are deteriorated to the point when I touched one of the brackets it fell off in my hand,” and were told, “the dolphin’s stomachs have to be cleared due to them eating chunks of steal [sic] when it falls in the water…
Sea Life Park Falling Apart Dangerous Animal Cruelty
The brackets that tie the cross girders to the glue-lams are completely corroded due to contact to salt air as well, they have been left untreated for many years, and are no longer structurally intact.” The amphitheater surrounding the tank holds up to 700 people.
The engineer allegedly described it as “a disaster waiting to happen,” claiming, “when the wind was blowing, the building was moving, if this building collapses during a show, the dolphins, and possibly hundreds of people will be injured or possibly killed.” It was observed that General Manager, “Valerie King knows this building should be closed down for repairs, but it makes too much money to do that anytime soon, so it will someday be repaired, but it might be too late.”
It also claims Hawaii news agencies were contacted, but, “they know this park is a big attraction, draws a lot of tourism, impacts the local economy, and none of them have printed a word about this.”
This inspection was allegedly done by an engineer who “was hired from Seattle Washington, rather than a local company to keep the information from getting out locally.”
Sea Life Park Falling Apart Dangerous Animal Cruelty DLNR
The second main concern is the main entrance to the park, the shark/reef life tank building. The structure is an an enclosure which “is steel reinforced concrete, the structure is over 50 years old, the steel is completely corroded due to constant contact with salt water… The tank holds 500,000 gallons of water X 8 lbs = 4 million pounds of pressure being exerted to the sides of the building supports.” The alleged inspection also reported the ceiling is coming down in “large chunks… Large pieces of concrete as large as an estimated 1/2 ton or more are falling out of the ceiling. The building shear points are all cracked, and crumbling.”
This poses a serious safety concern to not only visitors, but employees. “There are about 20 places where the ceiling has come down, they have not been repaired yet, so they can still be seen by the public since it is directly above their heads, the building is coming down. The company plans to patch the holes in the ceiling, not tell anyone, but this is a band-aid approach to a mortal wound. This can only end badly, for the animals as well as those trapped when the building does collapse, either partially, or completely.”
Sea Life Park Falling Apart Dangerous Animal Cruelty
The third building of concern is the retail building which was reportedly in use at the time of the inspection despite having been previously condemned. “This building is said to be on the schedule to be replaced in 2 years, but that was said 5 years ago. At this point it is still in use despite the condemnation order.” A recent observation at the park found that the building has since been closed to the public.
Upon receiving this information in July, our partners contacted Hawaii’s Department of Land And Natural Resources Land Division and photographed the park a few days later. The department said they would look into it, but no further response was given, nor apparent action, despite the seriousness of the leak.
Photographs of Sea Life Park confirmed structural damage and the liability exposures. A Animal Plant And Health Inspection Service (APHIS) inspection report ([link below]) from 2015 further supported claims, mentioning numerous concerns that matched the leak.
Shortly after inquiries were made, Sea Life Park quickly closed their Gift Shop and Hawaii Ocean Theater. No reported penalties to the park were given. The Shark/Reef Life Tank remains open to the public.

APHIS Inspection Reports 2010-2017

We urge members of the public to contact Barry Cheung of DLNR Land Division and ask for a building inspection to be done:

Office #: 1-808-587-0433
E-mail: Barry.W.Cheung@hawaii.gov

Another Southern Resident killer whale is losing body condition, and researchers are concerned about the pregnant females

K25 has lost body condition

Will we lose Scoter (J25) next? NOAA and partner organizations are watching him carefully as they consider options to increase the volume of Chinook salmon that can be made available to the orcas. Biologists report that it is not unusual for a male to die once their mothers are gone, especially when fish are scarce. Scoter’s mother died in 2017.
Also of concern is the question of how viable the expected calves will be, based on data that show 70% of the Southern Resident orca births have failed to produce healthy calves during recent years. (Read more on the pregnancy failures),
NOAA’s announcement:

Scientists from NOAA’s Fisheries Southwest Fisheries Science Center are currently working in collaboration with SR3: SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation and Research The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer to collect aerial photogrammetry images in an ongoing study to monitor the growth and body condition of endangered Southern Resident killer whales. These data support management actions to ensure an adequate supply of their Chinook salmon prey. In the shorter term, the aerial perspective also offers important insights into the health of individual whales. Earlier this month, this collaborative study provided key information on the condition of an ailing young whale, J50 The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer , and her mother, J16. In recent days, the photogrammetry team have documented another SRKW individual to be in notably poorer body condition compared to recent years.
K25, a 27-year old adult male has been documented in aerial photographs since 2008.
This year, his body profile is thinner than previous years (see images [above]). This change coincides with the loss of his mother, K13 in 2017, and likely reflects the challenges he faces without her help in capturing and sharing prey. Males rely on help from their mothers, and other family members, to meet their increased energy demands, and long term demographic monitoring The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer has shown that adult males have an increased mortality risk following their mother’s death, highlighting K25’s current vulnerability.
Offering a more hopeful outlook for this group, aerial images collected this week have also documented K27, K25’s sister, to be heavily pregnant, along with a number of other females in all three pods (J, K and L) within the population. Whales carry their baby weight below the ribcage, just like humans, enabling later-term pregnancies to be reliably documented from aerial images of body shape (see images [above]).
Unfortunately, there is currently a high rate of reproductive failure The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer in this population, and K27 has been documented to have aborted a fetus The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer in recent years. Follow-up monitoring by our colleagues at the Center for Whale Research The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer will determine the success of these pregnancies

New baby killer whale born to ‘deaf’ mother Morgan, who was once claimed by SeaWorld. UPDATE: Calf’s nursing not going well.

Morgan has been documented repeatedly bashing her head against the side of the gate opening mechanism. (Freemorgan.nl)

Loro Parque now has five orcas that belonged to SeaWorld, along with the Dutch orca Morgan – who SeaWorld bizarrely claimed to own before turning the lot over to this Spanish amusement park. Eventually it was determined that Morgan lost her hearing along the way (it is unknown if she was deaf when stranded or became deaf later) and after a spat with SeaWorld, Loro Parque bred her. (For background on this farce, please see Orca whale Morgan’s fate follows the golden rule: those who have the gold make the rules.)
At this writing, nothing more is known about the calf, or whether a “deaf”, young, mother whale will be able to communicate with the infant. Watch this space for updates.
UPDATE September 24th: From Loro Parque –

The first days in the life of a cetacean are critical and we have all been encouraged by Morgan’s strong maternal instincts and the way she is nurturing and taking care of her calf. Establishing breastfeeding is crucial in this early phase and our team of veterinarians and external consultants are closely monitoring both mother and calf to see that this happens.

Over the first 24 hours Morgan’s milk production has been lower than we would like, meaning it may be necessary to introduce bottle feeding to ensure that the calf is getting the nourishment it needs. We sincerely hope that nature can take its course and that Morgan can feed her calf independently.

However, we are watching the situation carefully and will assist with bottle feeding, if the experts consider that the life of the calf is at risk.

We wish to take this opportunity to say thank you for all the kind messages we have received from all over the world as we celebrate the birth of Morgan’s calf. We will continue to provide updates as they enjoy their first days together.

Background information:  In 2006, SeaWorld sent four orcas from the US on a breeding loan to Loro Parque (in the Spanish owned Canary Islands off the coast of Africa).
From SeaWorld’s Shell Game – Are They Trying to Get the Young Orca That Stranded in Dutch Waters? :

 In his excellent article, Blood in the Water, author Tim Zimmermann gives a thorough and engaging account of the events that led to the death of a trainer by one of SeaWorld’s whales, Keto, in Spain’s Loro Parque amusement park. In the telling of the story, Zimmermann shows that Loro Parque’s orcas were shipped from SeaWorld’s Texas and Florida amusement parks in 2006 to ‘help it [Loro Parque] start Orca Ocean’ and to ‘showcase these remarkable animals’.

Loro Parque’s announcement about the birth:

Loro Parque has good news to share: the orca Morgan that was rescued after being found near dead near the coast of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands and that forms part of our group of orcas, gave birth to her first calf this morning, which finds itself in a perfect state of health. From the very first moment, Morgan demonstrated to be an exemplary mother attending to her newborn, which is swimming next to its mother in the installations of the ‘OrcaOcean’.
The orca Morgan was rescued at the coast of the Wadden Sea in 2010 and was attended by a team of experts of the Harderwijk Dolphinarium in an effort to help the lost animal, which showed such a severe malnutrition that the animal was only skin and bones. In this moment, Morgan only weighed 430 Kg and the keepers of the Dutch dolphinarium were not sure that the animal was going to survive the first night after its rescue. They, however, were hopeful that with a proper level of care, affection and attention of the care givers, as well as with the adequate nutrition, the animal could make a recovery.
Thanks to all these efforts of the team at Harderwijk, the animal began to recover its weight and strength, and as the Harderwijk installations were not prepared to keep orcas, the Dutch authorities initiated a formal commission to determine the future of the orca Morgan. A group of international and independent experts came to the conclusion that there were only two viable alternatives for the animal: euthanasia or to be kept at an installation of an aquarium that complied with the necessary conditions for this animal species.
At this moment, as Loro Parque had the most modern installations for orcas in existence, the Park was contacted to see if it would accept the animal. Despite all the challenges that this request represented, Loro Parque accepted the petition, thus, avoiding the only other alternative that was left for the animal: the euthanasia.
After a few months at our installations, the orca Morgan adapted to the new conditions and integrated perfectly into the existing group of orcas at Loro Parque. At the same time, it was discovered that the orca suffered a severe hearing deficiency, which was yet another argument to confirm that animal was incapable to survive on her own in nature.
Given this last circumstance, there were a number of questions as to what exactly a delivery would imply for the animal without a hearing capacity. Today, Loro Parque would like to share the great news: the delivery went in a completely normal manner and the first hours after the birth have been developing in accordance with the best expectations.
It is impossible to know the gender of the new calf yet, although the most important issue now is that both, the mother and the calf, find themselves in a perfect state of health. Loro Parque will be informing the public about the development of the situation, and would like to take this opportunity to thank all its visitors from many different parts of the world, the tour operators and all the collaborators in the scientific field for all the support to the Loro Parque mission: to protect and conserve animals and their natural habitats for future generations.

Morgan with her new calf. Credit: Loro Parque

Seaworld, salmon, senators and saving orcas – NOAA’s role has limits

Playful whales in happier times.

“There are no silver bullets”

The patience and equanimity of the NOAA officials was impressive at the recent public meetings that were held to discuss the status of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. After sharing details, the staff opened the mic to the public – NOAA was there to listen, and listen they did as the public poured out concerns, demands, and judgments primarily on the lack of sufficient salmon and on the presence of SeaWorld in the medical treatment given to the now deceased orca calf, Scarlet (J50).
Wild salmon and captive cetaceans are only partly under NOAA’s authority so a few details may have escaped mention during the meetings.

SeaWorld’s role

SeaWorld has more than earned their place as the captivity whipping boy, and they deserve the huge pit of costly reparations that need to be made to save the endangered Southern Resident orcas.
But the Salish Sea is an unofficial sanctuary where captures and harming of almost everything that swims there is either regulated or protected. As the result of a lawsuit, SeaWorld is specifically forbidden from participating in captures or keeping a whale taken from Washington State waters. They were run out of Alaska when they tried there, and British Columbia, Canada also gave them the boot.

This file photo shows orca whales from the J and K pods swim past a small research boat on Puget Sound in view of downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries Service, Candice Emmons, file).

Does the fact that SeaWorld contributed to the whale population loss mean that SeaWorld shouldn’t help fix the situation? Of course not – that would be like preferring to die over being saved by a doctor because of ethnicity, religion, or gender bias. Whether we like it or not, SeaWorld has expertise in marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation and regularly saves the lives of the whales and dolphins that turn up on our shores.

The salmon question

NOAA’s jurisdiction over salmon is complicated, in part thanks to President Nixon’s feud decades ago with his Secretary of the Interior. Nixon put the newly created National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the purview of the Department of Commerce instead of the Interior:
From Science Magazine:

President Barack Obama today confirmed the rumored political shenanigans surrounding the creation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 4 decades ago.
Give you a few examples. There are five different entities dealing with housing. There are more than a dozen agencies dealing with food safety. My favorite example—which I mentioned in last year’s State of the Union address—as it turns out, the Interior Department is in charge of salmon in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in saltwater. (Laughter.) If you’re wondering what the genesis of this was, apparently, it had something to do with President Nixon being unhappy with his Interior Secretary for criticizing him about the Vietnam War. And so he decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place.

 
NOAA has done the best conceivable job in the effort to save Scarlet, and while they work with SeaWorld the language NOAA uses in the discussions is straightforward and to the point.
It may be belated, but NOAA has stepped up to the plate.

Congress is paying attention

Great news – on September 10th Senator Murray and other senators quietly announced that the ongoing legislative effort to protect salmon-killing and unneeded dams that passed in the House basically died an ignoble death in the Senate.
From Save Our Wild Salmon:

As a result of our/your collective work, politics and policy in the Northwest is shifting. Kudos are especially due to Senator Patty Murray who led this regional fight to stop the Salmon Extinction Act (HR 3144) and Rider (Section 506). Senator Murray recognized these bills for what they were: harmful to salmon and harmful to regional processes and discussions occurring today to address the problems that face salmon, orca and Northwest communities. HR 3144 and Section 506 are both highly divisive to the Northwest communities that must work together on shared solutions to common problems. Thanks and praise are also due to other key elected officials who worked vigilantly to prevent these bills from becoming law, including Reps. Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Earl Blumenauer, Derek Kilmer, Denny Heck, and others.
Importantly, when HR 3144 came to the House floor for a vote, all the Democratic lawmakers in Oregon and Washington voted the right way – against it – with one exception – Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon.

 
From Senator Murray’s website:

The future of the Columbia River is critically important to the Pacific Northwest economy and to our way of life, which is why I have long insisted that we keep politics and partisanship out of this and allow the ongoing legal process to play out. I am glad this deal does exactly that. Nothing in this report, and nothing in the bill itself, would insert Congress or partisan politics into the process or would interfere with the court-mandated comprehensive review that everyone can participate in and accounts for all uses of our river system.
“Throughout this process, it has been and will continue to be important that we make sure scientific questions remain in the hands of scientists and not politicians. I continue to stand ready to work with any Republicans who are willing to work with me to forge consensus around these important Pacific Northwest issues and not just politicize the process, facts, and science.

 
Saving these whales is going to take all of us working together but Congress can do the most when it comes to turning things around quickly. Ken Balcomb at the Center for Whale Research thinks we have only 5 more years to turn the salmon famine around before the whale population won’t be able to rebound.
He also thinks that a few of the orcas are pregnant…and they need food now.

 
References:
https://www.facebook.com/NOAAFisheriesWestCoast/?tn-str=k*F
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/whales/keiko/world.html
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2012/01/why-noaa-commerce-department
https://www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/9/senator-murray-deal-keeps-politics-out-of-columbia-river-system-operations
https://www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2018/9/senator-murray-deal-keeps-politics-out-of-columbia-river-system-operations
https://www.whaleresearch.com

Missing Southern Resident killer whale J50 declared dead – she’s gone, but not forgotten

Another calf J52 (Sonic) lost to hunger in 2017.        Photo by Gary Sutton

With the loss of J50, the total number of Southern Resident killer whales now totals 74 whales.

From the Center for Whale Research on September 13, 2018:
J50 – Missing Southern Resident killer whale is presumed dead
Her last known sighting was Friday, September 7 by our colleagues at NOAA, SeaDoc, and others. The Center for Whale Research has had a vessel on the water looking for J50 for the past three days. We have seen all the other members of her family (i.e., J16s) during these outings.
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. 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. In accordance with an urgent plea by the American Fisheries Society in 2006, natural Chinook salmon runs must be restored throughout their range to avoid their extinction. We have known for twenty years that these fish, in particular, are essential to the SRKW diet. Chief Seattle was right: ‘All things are connected.’ Humans are connected, too.
In the United States, the biggest recovery of natural Chinook salmon is possible with dam-breaching of the Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) – the Alternative 4 option in the Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of 2002 – the legal instrument for their continued operation after options 1-3 have now failed. The dams lose huge amounts of money for the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA) and its rate-payers; they are now obsolete for all of their wished-for purposes; they kill millions of salmon and have driven them to near extinction; and, now we find that they have been largely responsible for the population decline of the Southern Resident killer whales, particularly in the coastal-feeding L pod. In the inland marine waters of Washington State, all of the pods have been negatively impacted by the extinction of once bountiful Chinook salmon runs in the Puget Sound region of the Salish Sea.
In Canada, the Fraser River system stocks of natural Chinook salmon have been decimated by overfishing, pollution from mine-tailing dam failures and other mishaps involving toxic chemical spills in the river, and development of industry and agriculture in the Fraser River delta region so important to the life cycle of juvenile salmon. And that is not to mention the policy of allowing fish farms in lieu of responsible management of natural populations of salmon that has been catastrophic to the SRKW food supply in Strait of Georgia region of the Salish Sea.
The message brought by J50, and by J35 and her dead calf a few weeks ago, is that the SRKW are running out of reproductive capacity and extinction of this population is looming, while the humans convene task forces and conference calls that result in nothing, or worse than nothing, diverting attention and resources from solving the underlying ecological problems that will ultimately make this once-productive region unlivable for all.

Tahlequah has been carried her dead calf for 17 days. Photo credit The Center for Whale Research

Urgent search for the orca J 50 has begun, now missing for several days (13 Sept 2018)

 

NOAA biologists on a previous encounter with the Southern Resident orcas.

From NOAA:

Unfortunately J50 has not been seen in several days of favorable conditions and sightings of her pod and family group, including J16, her mother.
Teams were on the water searching yesterday and are increasing a broad transboundary search today with our on-water partners and counterparts in Canada.
We have alerted the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which is a tremendous resource in such situations.
Airlines flying in and out of the San Juan Islands are also on the lookout.
We greatly appreciate all the help and concern. The hotline for stranding reports is 1-866-767-6114.
Further updates at bit.ly/NOAAJ50J35.

The Wild Orca seaplane. – Photo: Lee Zerrilla | AirlineReporter

Saving J 50 (Scarlet); public meetings will be held by NOAA September 15th and 16th

J 50 (Scarlet) loves to breach and when she was healthy breached once 50 times in a row. Photo credit: Clint Rivers

This announcement by NOAA, DFO Canada, and their team gives us hope that not only are they doing everything possible to save J 50 (Scarlet), but whatever actions they take will be in the best interest of  both her health and her family ties.
The scientists don’t have much time to act, yet they want the public to understand what it will take to help this naturally lively whale who is so imbued with character and once had energy to spare, and whose survival may be key in the restoration of the Southern Resident killer whale population.
NOAA has arranged two public meetings in Washington State for next weekend (September 15th and 16th), but if you can’t attend, any live streams, audios, or reports will be updated here.
J 50 (Scarlet) has lost significant body condition since May. Photo credit:  SR3/NOAA

UPDATE from NOAA:  September 11, 2018

J50’s condition in recent weeks has underscored the urgency of recovering the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population.  NOAA Fisheries and our partners have been exploring and taking action to save J50 because of her importance as a contributing member of this population, and particularly to J Pod.

The public has a stake in the J50 response and the recovery of Southern Resident killer whales and we understand many people are concerned.  We want to know what people in the region think about this effort and potential steps so we are holding two public meetings in Washington State to hear the public’s views:

  • Saturday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. in Friday Harbor at Friday Harbor High School
  • Sunday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m. in Seattle at University of Washington, Haggett Hall Cascade Room

J50’s condition has declined over recent months to the point where she is emaciated and often lagging behind her family. Field treatment has not improved her condition, and veterinarians believe they have exhausted all reasonable remote treatment options and her survival is unlikely.

 

The next steps could include further intervention, such as a rescue operation and conducting a hands-on physical examination. That could lead to more in-depth diagnoses, rapid treatment, and return to the water or short-term rehabilitation and care to improve her chances of survival, with the ultimate goal of reuniting her with her family.

Two objectives will determine any further intervention to help J50:

  • providing appropriate conservation medical actions for J50 to  protect her potential contribution to the recovery of the population, and
  • avoiding harm to the rest of J Pod and the Southern Resident population of 75 whales.

No rescue would proceed while J50 remains with J Pod and her family group. Response teams would act to rescue J50 only if she becomes stranded or separated from the rest of J Pod such that any risks of the intervention to the rest of J Pod are minimized.

The overriding priority of any rescue intervention would be to evaluate, treat, and rehabilitate J50 in a manner that would support the greatest chance of her survival while ensuring her return and reunification with her family as soon as possible so she can contribute to long-term recovery of the population.

If veterinarians and other experts who assess J50 in the field determine that she cannot be treated or rehabilitated, teams would promptly return her to J Pod to spend the rest of her life with her family.

Photo: J50/Scarlet swims near Point Roberts, Wash., on Aug. 10. (Photo by Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries, under permit 18786.)

Updates on the sick orca calf J 50 (Scarlet) – she’s thin but she’s a fighter (9 Sept 2018)

Rest assured, government agencies in Canada and the US are committed to doing what they have been tasked by law to do in treating this sick young whale. Scarlet has amazed researchers in her tenacity and ability to stay with her family – albeit at her own pace – as she continues to lose body condition.
NOAA, DFO Canada, the Center for Whale Research and others are working around the clock to monitor and to strategize urgent care procedures for little Scarlet, one of the last members of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales.
The team’s priorities are clear:
First, do no harm. Under the US Endangered Species Act:

“…all federal agencies shall seek to conserve endangered and threatened species and shall use their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the ESA…It also requires these agencies to ensure that any actions they fund, authorize, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the survival of any endangered or threatened species, or to destroy or adversely modify its designated critical habitat (if any).

 
Second, preserve the population’s viability. Under Canada’s Species at Risk laws:

In preparing a recovery strategy, action plan or management plan, the competent minister must consider the commitment of the Government of Canada to conserving biological diversity and to the principle that, if there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the listed wildlife species, cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for a lack of full scientific certainty.

 

-UPDATES ON J 50 (SCARLET)-

“Biologists are mobilized and responding to an emaciated and ailing three year-old killer whale (born December 2014), J50 also known as Scarlet, of the critically endangered Southern Resident population. J50 appears lethargic at times with periods of activity, including feeding. Scientists observing her agree that she is in poor condition and may not survive. Responders from NOAA Fisheries and partner organizations are exploring options ranging from no intervention to providing medical treatment, potentially delivered in a live Chinook salmon, which has never before been attempted in the wild. Potential treatment may include medication and nutrition.” Updates are from NOAA.
September 8:
J50 was seen lagging a half-mile to a mile behind the rest of her family group at times on Friday (9/7), and her body condition is not improving. She appeared to have lost more weight and looked very thin.
With growing concern, we are working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to evaluate options. Our highest priorities are to do all we can to ensure J50 remains a contributing part of the Southern Resident killer whale population and to prevent any harm to her and her family under any potential response scenario.
That is the bottom line.

J50’s deteriorating condition. (Photo: Katy Foster)

September 6:
Results are back from fecal and breath samples the team collected from a small group of J Pod whales, including J50.
Based on genetic analysis, we determined that the fecal sample (collected 8/17) likely came from J16, J50’s mother. This sample showed evidence of parasitic worms. Since J16 catches fish that she then shares with J50, the veterinary team prioritized treating J50 with a dewormer, following antibiotics.
A second fecal sample was identified as coming from J27, an adult male. Researchers at our Northwest Fisheries Science Center extracted DNA from the breath sample collected on 8/9.
While the sample was small and yielded little DNA, researchers are adapting their analysis to make the most of the available material.
J50 is still keeping up with her pod (Photo: Katy Foster)

September 4:
Biologists observing J50 on Monday (9/3) noted she was remarkably active and engaged with J Pod despite her severely emaciated condition.
J50 stayed close to her mother, J16, and continued the longer dives expected of healthy whales. Veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena of the Vancouver Aquarium provided J50 another dose of antibiotics through a dart, following up the initial dose administered on 8/9.
The treatment priority has now shifted to administering a dewormer, also through a dart, to reduce any parasitic burden on J50’s system.

September 3, 11:45 a.m.:  Good news!
Multiple organizations are reporting that J50 has been spotted with J Pod in the Salish Sea this morning. We will continue efforts to assess the health of J50 and treat her according to the priorities outlined by the team of veterinarians and scientists.
September 3: J50 was not seen returning from open waters off the West Coast of Vancouver Island to the Salish Sea with J Pod this weekend (9/1-2). Biologists from The Center for Whale Research, Soundwatch,  and the University of Washington spent much of the day Sunday with other members of J Pod, including J16, her mother, and J50 was not seen with them.
The team has several boats on the water today to look for her. One of the last sightings by DFO on Thursday (8/30) reported that J16 and J26, J50’s brother, were lagging behind most of J Pod by about three nautical miles, and J50 was lagging about a half-mile behind them. Sometimes she got closer, but she looked to be struggling to keep up.
The standard for determining the loss of any of the Southern Residents is to spot a whale’s family group multiple times without them. This rule may be relevant for J50 in order to confirm her status given how far behind the other whales she had followed at times.
 

Poll – do you think that the starving young orca J 50 should be captured for medical treatment?

Photo: J50/Scarlet swims near Point Roberts, Wash., on Aug. 10. (Photo by Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries, under permit 18786.)

“Starting in early August, an international team of biologists mobilized and began responding to an emaciated and ailing three year-old killer whale (born December 2014), J50 (also known as Scarlet), of the critically endangered Southern Resident population that frequents the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest. J50 appears lethargic at times with periods of activity, including feeding. Scientists observing her agree that she is in poor condition and may not survive. Responders from NOAA Fisheries and partner agencies and organizations in both the United States and Canada continue to monitor J50 and are exploring options to provide medical treatment, including delivering antibiotics and nutrition. More information on J50 and the status of response efforts can be found on our J50 webpage.” Source: NOAA  Questions and Answers on J50 Emergency Response
(This poll is now closed) – UPDATES on J 50