Setting out with a group of whale watchers Sunday Tasli Shaw tried to keep positive and excited for them, for the trip ahead.

“We’ll see what we find today,” she told the group.

But the loss of southern resident orca J50 who she’s photographed and seen in the flesh so many times has left her and her team at Ocean Ecoventures feeling gutted.

“That was it she’s gone,” said Shaw.

“Even though we knew it was coming it was really hard to have the realization,” she said.

“It’s been the hardest summer that I’ve ever had doing this,” said Ocean Ecoventures guide Gary Sutton.

“I mean it’s the only time I’ve ever contemplated changing careers and it’s not for the lack of loving being out there,” he said. “It’s just for the emotional toll of watching this go on day by day and nothing be done.”

When J50 was born and spotted with rake marks from a fellow orca’s teeth it led experts to believe she had been a difficult birth and that her mother was likely helped by a midwife whale to deliver her.

Whale watchers nicknamed her scarlet and celebrated the arrival that was the first in years for the endangered southern residents.

“Spunky personality yeah,” recalled Tasli Shaw.

Now news of the four-year-old’s death after months of hail mary attempts to feed her and nurse her to health with anitbiotics have left this community appealing for help.

“They need action now,” said Gary Sutton.

J50’s death is the third young animal to die in the Southern Resident population in just two years. Reducing the endangered orcas to just 74 now and more at risk by the day.

“It’s devastating and it’s hard to maintain any kind of a hope for the population at this point,” said Shaw.

So whale watchers are urging officials to take immediate action to save the remaining animals by opening dams that could release all important salmon for the orcas to feed on and protect stocks already out there.

So whale watching tours don’t bear helpless witness to another whale’s decline in months to come.

Skye Ryan