Young killer whale looks hungry off British Columbia

A four-year-old female killer whale from a flock in the waters of southern Vancouver Island and northern Washington State seems so hungry that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Fisheries and Oceans Oceans Canada is looking for a way to help him.

The health of the J-50 killer whale is very worrisome, according to Michael Milstein, a NOAA public affairs officer in Portland, Oregon.

She looks underweight, emaciated and even lethargic in the water.

The southern Pacific resident killer whale is an endangered species in Canada. 
Photo: Eagle Wing Tours and Shorelines Photography / Valerie Shore

One of the options considered for the young female, whose species is considered at risk, is to give her salmon containing medications.

“Veterinarians and biologists are looking for the most sensible solution, but we do not want to make a whale become dependent on us for food,” says Michael Milstein.

Kim Juniper, the chair of the Ocean Ecosystems Chair at Victoria University, believes that you have to “try everything”, even if you are not convinced of the chances of success.

A threatened species

Only about 75 southern resident killer whales remain in the northeastern waters of the Pacific Ocean, making it an endangered species, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The popularity of orcas in aquariums around the world is partly responsible for the hardships experienced by this population, according to Kim Juniper.

Between 1965 and 1975, 58 individuals were removed from the population and sent to aquaria in the world. 45 were sent and 13 died during capture. So we had half of the squad and since then they have not recovered.

According to the Whale Museum’s director on San Juan Island, Jenny Atkinson, the situation of southern resident killer whales is particularly problematic because of the lack of availability of chinook salmon, their main source of food.

“You have a threatened orca looking for a food source that is also under threat,” she says.

Jenny Atkinson adds that the presence of toxins due to the proximity of urban centers in the water of the Salish Sea compromises the immune system of whales.

In addition to lack of food and pollution, shipping and noise are also threatening the killer whale population in the northeastern Pacific.

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