New images show the condition of a southern resident killer whale continues to deteriorate since it has been monitored over the last three and a half years.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a photo from last week, captured with the use of a drone flown at more than 100 feet above the whales, showing J17 demonstrating “peanut head” condition, indicating significant fat or blubber loss around the head.
— NOAAFish_WCRO (@NOAAFish_WCRO) May 17, 2019
The whale is an adult female and the NOAA says J17 is showing further decline since being assessed last fall, and her condition has been getting worse since giving birth to her daughter, J53, in the fall of 2015.
The NOAA says the three-and-a-half year old J53 has also declined in condition.
NOAA fisheries is not planning to intervene with J17 or J53, but will be working to gather further information, evaluate options and consult with experts.
Researchers will collect feces, breath and scraps from the whales’ prey to help give information on its diet, potential pregnancies and pathogen exposure.
Scientists believe malnutrition, disease, and disturbances are contributing factors impacting the southern resident population recovery.