Teams check health of endangered pod as sick orca is presumed dead

Scientists are monitoring the health of a group of critically endangered orcas in the Pacific Ocean followin...

Posted: Sep 18, 2018 8:43 AM
Updated: Sep 18, 2018 8:43 AM

Scientists are monitoring the health of a group of critically endangered orcas in the Pacific Ocean following news that Scarlet, an emaciated member of the pod, is presumed dead.

"We did an extensive search on Thursday and Friday, both by air and on water but didn't turn up Scarlet or her body," spokesperson Ruth Howell of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries said Monday. "We called off the search Friday afternoon."

Animals

Antibiotics

Biology

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Canada

Continents and regions

Dolphins and whales

Life forms

Mammals

Marine mammals

North America

Pharmaceutical industry

Pharmaceuticals and biotechnology

Pharmaceuticals and prescription drugs

Science

The Americas

United States

Agriculture, forestry, and commercial fishing

Commercial fish industry

Food and beverage industry

Food production industry

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government organizations - US

Health and medical

Heroes and heroism

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Society

US Department of Commerce

US federal departments and agencies

US federal government

Weather

Deaths and fatalities

The most recent photos of Scarlet, also known as J50, showed the underweight 3-year-old orca was in bad shape. She has not been seen since September 7.

"Aerial photos from August and September showed her condition had gotten worse," Howell said. "She was extremely emaciated, and her condition was worsening."

Scarlet was among a group of endangered, rapidly dwindling Southern Resident killer whales that frequent the Pacific Northwest. Teams working off Washington state and Vancouver, Canada, had been trying to get her food and antibiotics.

The nonprofit SR3 has partnered with NOAA Fisheries and currently has a team in the field attempting to get more information about the health and wellness of the pod, Howell said.

"Working under a research permit from NOAA Fisheries, we have been able to fly a custom-made research drone high above the whales, to non-invasively collect images to measure the width (to infer fatness) and length (to monitor growth) of the whales," said the SR3 website.

A task force set up by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on September 24 will release a draft of recommendations to help the orcas.

"Losing Scarlet is particularly difficult after a truly heroic effort on the part of so many in the US and Canada to save her life," said a statement from the task force. "And her suffering and death follow too closely the death of J35's calf and the 17 days of orca grieving that brought world attention to the critically endangered southern resident orcas."

Lack of salmon is killing orcas

Scarlet is part of the Southern Resident population that includes Tahlequah, whose heartbreak made headlines worldwide after she carried her dead calf for days this month.

Tahlequah's calf died a few hours after its birth last month. Not wanting to let its body sink to the ocean floor, she nudged it toward the surface as she made her way through the Pacific, off the coast of Canada and the northwestern US.

One of the problems affecting whales is the lack of salmon, their main source of food due to overfishing for commercial consumption. And man-made contraptions, like hydroelectric power sources, block their path to release eggs.

Orca whales also do not have babies often or in large numbers, and when they do, it is a long process. It takes a calf a little under a year and a half to fully develop in the womb, and they nurse for another year.

The Southern Resident population has reduced to 75 animals, and has not had a successful birth in three years. In the past 20 years, only 25% of the babies have survived.

"Extinction is looming," Center for Whale Research founder Ken Balcomb told CNN.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 449900

Reported Deaths: 33087
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Queens716827243
Kings671367318
Bronx525784941
Nassau462182201
Suffolk460612011
Westchester378011454
New York330703174
Richmond157301085
Rockland14823675
Orange11812498
Erie10999689
Monroe5894289
Dutchess5059153
Onondaga4220205
Albany3016134
Oneida2375123
Ulster224295
Niagara1724101
Putnam157463
Sullivan157148
Broome146569
Schenectady138048
Saratoga99817
Rensselaer89942
Columbia58137
Chautauqua5379
Madison48717
Ontario46135
Oswego4473
Tompkins3970
Warren36033
Steuben35042
Fulton33224
Otsego3325
Chemung3303
Orleans32354
Herkimer32110
Greene31918
St. Lawrence3184
Genesee3145
Wayne3105
Washington28714
Cattaraugus2546
Chenango2487
Montgomery2274
Tioga22425
Livingston2018
Cayuga1992
Jefferson1630
Essex1600
Cortland1590
Clinton1545
Wyoming1325
Delaware1304
Seneca1053
Allegany981
Schoharie830
Franklin650
Yates627
Lewis500
Schuyler380
Hamilton150
Unassigned016
Utica
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 51°
Oneonta
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 46°
Herkimer
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 51°
Thendara
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 51°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Click here to learn more about A Healthier Mohawk Valley
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
WKTV Golf Card - Under 150 left