The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is halting all satellite tagging of Orcas after a piece of a tag was found in the dorsal fin of a dead Southern Resident Killer whale.
L95, known as Nigel, a 20-year old male, was discovered near Esperanza Inlet on March 30th.
NOAA Fisheries researchers had previously tagged L95 on February 23, 2016 off the northern coast of Washington State.
No clear cause of death was apparent in the initial necropsy.
The examination did find a few small satellite tag attachment system ‘petals’ retained in L95’s dorsal fin.
Today, NOAA Fisheries wrote “we are extremely saddened to learn of L95’s death and are working closely with our Canadian counterparts to interpret necropsy findings and understand the cause of death.”
“We are concerned that parts of the tag were found retained in the dorsal fin. These tag attachments are designed to fully detach and leave nothing behind.”
“The team has halted tagging activities until a full reassessment of the tag design and deployment is completed to reduce risk of this happening again.”
The satellite tagging program helps NOAA Fisheries track the Orcas, particularly during the winter, and provides vital data meant to be used to develop plans to better protect them.
A second Orca, a female calf found dead near Sooke on March 23rd, was determined to have been less than 2 weeks old.
The cause of death was not determined, but given the age it is believed to have been due to a birthing complication.
The Southern Resident population is listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act in Canada.