Emergency rescue efforts for endangered killer whale hit snag in Canada

Biologists are keeping a close watch on J50 a 4-year-old southern resident killer whale. The indentation behind her head is indicative of a whale that is starving because the animal lacks the fatty deposits behind the cranium that create the usual smooth

Scientists in Canada and the US have been working together to save her life.

J-50 was last seen Friday in Canadian waters, but she and the rest of the J-pod have not been seen since.

In Canada, where the whales were last seen, the fisheries department does not yet have the legal ability to treat the whale, said marine mammal coordinator Paul Cottrell. "It's fantastic. We're hoping she's going to be OK".

Thornton cautioned, however, that Canadian officials have to follow federal law, perform a thorough risk assessment and minimize the impact of any intervention on J50 and her podmates.

J50 is one of only 75 Southern resident killer whales that swim the coastal waters between British Columbia to California.

At only three and a half years old, experts have said she has reproductive potential and could play a vital role in the southern residents' recovery if she survives.

J-pod recently drew an worldwide spotlight when another orca, J35, was spotted pushing the body of her dead calf through the water for more than a week. The pod was spotted Tuesday west of Port Renfrew. She was staying close to her mother and moving steadily. Then the whales disappeared back into the fog.

Officials are working together to monitor the orca's health and develop a plan to intervene, if necessary.

The search is on again for J50, the ailing killer whale, in a cross-border effort to save her life.

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Michael Milstein, a spokesman with NOAA Fisheries, says researchers on Wednesday spotted the 20-year-old whale known as J35 carrying her dead young off the tip of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

Rowles said injections of antibiotics or sedatives have been given to other free-swimming whales or dolphins that were injured or entangled but it hasn't been done for free-swimming whales in this area.

Barre said operations testing for using live Chinook for nutritional support therapy and administering oral medication would be done with the Lummi tribe and the Whale Sanctuary Project - without whales present.

Whale experts have been increasingly anxious about J50 after a researcher last month noticed an odour on the orca's breath, a smell detected on other orcas that later died.

Researchers took breath samples, and a drone flown above the whales Wednesday showed that J50 is much skinnier and her body condition has gotten worse.

Experts led by NOAA Fisheries have been searching for the young whale to assess her health and potentially give her medication.

An endangered killer whale that has prompted an global rescue effort won't receive antibiotics by dart or by fish if it's found in Canadian waters.

"This is unprecedented in terms of what is occurring and some of the methodologies haven't been done on killer whales and it's an endangered population", Cottell said.

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