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14 September 2018, 04:46 | Edward Lowe
"What J50 needed, and what her family continues to need, is healthy and abundant chinook salmon, which these orcas depend upon for survival".
The southern resident killer whale J50, also known as Scarlet, hasn't been seen for several days and has been now presumed dead. Her mother, J16, has also declined in condition in the past month.
The southern resident killer whales, which are so endangered there are just 75 individuals left, swim between Canadian and USA waters to Seattle and Vancouver ports through busy shipping lanes.
Ken Balcomb, of the Center for Whale Research, confirmed Thursday that he had declared the orca known as J50 dead after she failed to appear with her family in recent days. The grieving mother, an orca called Tahlequah, made worldwide headlines over the summer when she carried her baby's body for at least 17 days, bringing global attention to the plight of her pod.
Scientist began to be concerned about J50 in July. Efforts to save the sick whale have not been successful. Researchers had taken extreme measures to save her, including darting her with medicine and dropping live chinook salmon dosed with antibiotics in front of her in hope she would eat them, but the efforts didn't work.
Officials were searching for the almost four-year-old whale in the water yesterday. "We don't think she has long". But no one has seen her in days.
On its website, the NOAA said it was increasing its search boundaries Thursday with its "on-water partners and counterparts in Canada". Authorities also alerted a network of people who respond when marine mammals wash ashore.
Other participants in the search included the Coast Guard, NOAA researchers, whale-watching vessels and nonprofits, the Seattle Timesreported. The search at this point is just a matter of protocol, he said.
"It is really important that if she is there that we find her", Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA, told the Times. "We haven't given up hope".
Balcomb said he has a boat out looking for her and would join in the search later in the day to make an official announcement.
With J50′s presumed death, there are now just 74 southern resident orcas left in the wild.
The center added: "The message brought by J50, and by J35 and her dead calf a few weeks ago, is that the [southern resident killer whales] 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".
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