'Considerable fog' complicates search for ailing orca J50

Emergency rescue efforts for endangered killer whale hit snag in Canada

Emergency rescue efforts for endangered killer whale hit snag in Canada

That data has documented orcas that declined and then disappeared.

Cottrell, who was on the water with the marine mammal crew in Sooke, said he was texting with the Port Renfrew crew and didn't have any details on J50's condition.

While the salmon-feeding idea has not yet received approval from Canadian officials, Cottrell says Canada is prepared to give the green light to a plan to administer antibiotics by dart or with a pole-mounted syringe, once it receives an application from its American counterparts.

"The big question is, can we craft public policy that can make a difference in the future of the orca, and by doing so make a positive difference in how we live in Puget Sound", Purce said in an interview Monday. This will likely involve sampling J50's breath from a close range and collecting fecal samples.

If a cause can be identified, the veterinarians on board will be able to sign off on the next step-the injection of a long-acting broad-spectrum antibiotic either from a pole or a dart gun. What would be unique is giving the orca medication through live fish, Rowles said.

Rowles said that while the research boats are out in the water searching for Scarlet, they have to keep a distance at least 200 yards to make sure that they don't further stress the sick, young whale or other whales.

Whale experts have been increasingly anxious about J50 after a researcher last month noticed an odour on the orca's breath, a smell detected on other orcas that later died.

The first step before administering any antibiotics will be to assess J50's condition, once she is located again in appropriate conditions.

She said it became evident that "we needed to intervene to determine potentially what was the cause and whether there was anything we could do to assist her".

The 4-year-old was part of the southern resident "baby boom" that occurred when eleven calves were born between 2014-2016.

"It's been a number of days since Friday, so it was great to see J50", Cottrell said.

The young female orca has sparked an global rescue effort by Canadian and American scientists who have developed a novel plan to feed her salmon medicated with antibiotics. She was the first orca to be rescued, rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.

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