Sick orca J50 determined to have parasitic worms

Sick orca J50 determined to have parasitic worms

WATCH: Whale researchers say the emaciated and endangered southern resident killer whale that’s been swimming in waters off the coasts of British Columbia and Washington state has parasitic worms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says an emaciated and endangered southern resident killer whale that has been spotted off of Vancouver Island has parasitic worms.

On Thursday, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) posted an update that said biologists had the results of fecal and breath samples they had collected to diagnose J50’s condition.  

#J50 Update (9/6): We now have some results of the fecal and breath samples the team collected to better understand and…

Posted by NOAA Fisheries West Coast on Thursday, September 6, 2018

The parasites were detected through fecal and breath samples from J16, J50s mother. Scientists say J16 shares fish she catches with J50, so they are prioritizing treating J50.

NOAA previously said the nearly four-year-old whale, also known as Scarlet, was seen active and engaged with her pod on Monday but was still severely emaciated.

Peter Hamilton is a whale researcher with LifeForce based in Comox and spotted most of J-Pod Wednesday near Comox.

“I do believe that the one that I was seeing was J50 and was very active and was looking pretty good,” said Hamilton

The Vancouver Aquarium’s head veterinarian Martin Haulena was able to dart the sickly whale with an antibiotic on Monday, however, scientists are still waiting to see if it is having a positive effect.

“Yeah we’re very concerned,” said NOAA spokesperson Michael Milstein. “I mean this whale is defying the odds and we’ve never seen a whale in this severe condition survive for this long.”

Capturing J50 has also been discussed but is not an option right now.

“That is something that we would consider as a last resort in the instance if she was perhaps stranded live on the beach or in a situation where she’d be likely to die anyway.” said Milstein.

Hamilton is worried about the future of all southern resident killer whales and says emergency orders need to be enacted including the ban on all fishing and enforcing laws to stop boat harassment.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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