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orcas

 J-50 swims with sister J-42 on July 21. NOAA Fisheries photo, permit number 21368.
NOAA Fisheries/Katy Foster

There has been an extraordinary federal-local-tribal effort aimed at nursing the killer whale known as J50 back to health. But is it far enough?

Seattle Times reporter Linda Mapes has been covering the operation, and she told KUOW’s Angela King about it.


A transient whale is shown on Friday, August 10, 2018, as crews attempt to locate the JPod. (Image taken under the authority of NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit No. 18786-03)
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kim Malcolm talks with University of Washington fisheries science professor Ray Hilborn about whether boycotting chinook salmon will help the recovery of southern resident killer whales.

Drone image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the J50 feeding effort
NOAA Fisheries, under permit # 18786

Scientists have taken an unprecedented step to save one of the Salish Sea’s 75 endangered orcas: They tried to feed her in the wild.

Day 9: The orca mother continues to carry her deceased baby, as the baby's body begins to decompose.
Courtesy of Soundwatch NMFS permit #21114

Bill Radke talks about our anthropomorphizing of the grieving mother orca, Tahlequah, and what it tells us about how humans think about mothering and losing a child.

The orca known as J35 swims without her baby off San Juan Island on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research

A grieving mother orca has finally let her dead calf go, ending her "tour of grief."

Lummi Tribal Chairman Jay Julius loads live chinook salmon onto King County Research Vessel SoundGuardian in Squalicum Harbor on Friday, August 10, 2018. (Image taken under the authority of NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit No. 18786-03)
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

An extraordinary effort to feed a sick, young orca got underway Friday morning in the waters west of Bellingham.

Crews loaded 24 live chinook salmon into tanks aboard King County's Research Vessel SoundGuardian as well as the Lummi Nation police boat at Squalicum Harbor.

Jeff Foster of the Whale Sanctuary Project checks the pole that will be used to collect breath samples during the planned health assessment of J50
John Gussman/NOAA Fisheries

As scientists searched Salish sea waters for the young, emaciated orca known as J50, they spotted her relative, still carrying her dead calf.

The fishing dock on the Lummi reservation. The Lummi refer to the salmon as their relatives.
Grant Hindsley for KUOW

Helping our relatives. That’s what Darrell Hillaire calls the project to offer salmon to the young whale known as J50.


Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C., on August 7.
Brian Gisborne, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

J50 is alive.

The emaciated, 3 1/2-year-old orca had seemingly gone missing over the weekend, leading some biologists to worry that she may have died.

Plans were underway to feed the young whale with live salmon – possibly laced with medicine – or to inject her with antibiotics, in the hopes of saving the youngest orca in this endangered group.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA, confirmed that the young orca was found west of Vancouver at the Port Renfrew near the west entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Washington grapples with orca recovery plan

Aug 7, 2018
Photo Courtesy of Taylor Shedd of Soundwatch

Bill Radke talks to Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes and Dr. Deborah Giles, whale research biologist for the  University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology about a new task force led by Washington's Governor Jay Inslee. The task force hopes to find a way to save orcas from extinction. 

J50 with her podmate J42, taken July 21, 2018.
NOAA FISHERIES/KATY FOSTER

Boat crews were out again on Washington waters Tuesday looking for J50, the starving orca that’s part of the endangered Southern Resident killer whales that frequent the Pacific Northwest.

Protesters call for the removal of dams on the Snake River to help salmon spawn -- and consequently feed Puget Sound orcas. The protest came outside a meeting of the governor's orca task force in Wenatchee on Tuesday.
KUOW photo/Eilis O'Neill

In late July, an orca calf died within half an hour of its birth. The mother carried the dead calf on her head for more than a week.

Now whale scientists and NOAA are weighing trying to feed live Chinook salmon to an emaciated 4-year-old orca or trying to inject her with an antibiotic.

 J-50 swims with sister J-42 on July 21. NOAA Fisheries photo, permit number 21368.
NOAA Fisheries/Katy Foster

The effort to save a sick, starving orca named J50 is a personal mission for Aaron Hillaire and Malcolm Owings of the Lummi Tribe.

“Hundreds and hundreds of years we’ve been around the orcas and it’s family, really,” Hillaire said.


Baby orca J54 swims with its mom, J28, in the waters off San Juan Island this month.
Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research

Laura Blackmore of Puget Sound Partnership speaks with KUOW's Kim Malcolm about the task force kicking off on Tuesday to discuss the overall health of the killer whales local to the Washington state and Canadian coast lines, known as J-Pod. 


An emaciated, 4-year-old Pacific Northwest orca is drawing alarm.

NOAA Fisheries spokesman Michael Milstein said feeding live Chinook salmon to the female orca, possibly laced with medication, is being considered.

Orca whale, Tahlequah or J35, carrying her dead calf
Photo courtesy of Michael Weiss, Center for Whale Research

It's now been nine days that a J-pod orca mother has been carrying her dead calf on her head, refusing to let it sink.

Kim Malcolm talks with Dr. Deborah Giles about how individuals can help with the recovery of southern resident killer whales. Giles is a killer whale biologist with the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology.

Here are three of Giles' suggestions:

Day 9: A small fin of the deceased baby whale follows its mother through Salish waters.
Courtesy of Soundwatch NMFS permit #21114

Marine biologist Taylor Shedd has told The Record that the grieving orca mother — known as Tahlequah or J35 — is carrying her dead calf for a ninth day. The baby's body has started to decompose.

The killer whale delivered her baby on Tuesday last week. Half an hour later, the calf died.

Orca whale, Tahlequah or J35, carrying her dead calf
Photo courtesy of Michael Weiss, Center for Whale Research

Last Tuesday, a new Orca calf was born to one of Puget Sound’s resident pods. The birth should have been a moment of celebration for the endangered population, but it quickly turned to tragedy when the calf died within a half hour.

The call is going out again to the operators and pilots of big ships to slow down in the shared border waters between Washington and British Columbia. The idea is to reduce underwater noise that could bother endangered killer whales.

Orcas in the Puget Sound.
Flickr Photo/tifotter (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/7SJy6t

In honor of Orca Awareness Month in Washington state, here are three facts about orcas we didn't know before, courtesy of a talk by Prof. Jason Colby of the University of Victoria. 

Dave Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research

An endangered killer whale has gone missing and is presumed dead, but it's not the only orca in trouble in Washington waters.

Eight local orcas have died in just the past two years. 


L122, one of the newest members of the Southern Resident Community of orcas, spotted Sept. 7 near Sooke, British Columbia.
Dave Ellifrit/Center for Whale Research

Bill Radke talks with our panel about the declining number of orcas in Puget Sound and if we should stop whale watching. We also look at the New York Times investigation into pregnancy discrimination, and why the World Health Organization has added "gaming disorder" to its disease classifications.

A file photo of a member of Puget Sound's Swinomish tribe participating in a ceremonial salmon blessing. Northwest tribes hold vigils along the Columbia River to pray for the return of salmon.
KCTS9 Photo/Katie Campbell

Tribal leaders on both sides of the border said Canada's purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline would not weaken their opposition to the pipeline's planned expansion.

The project would triple the amount of oil flowing from Alberta tar sands through British Columbia and increase oil tanker traffic through Puget Sound.

Proposed 'marine park' at Seattle Center, 1966
Flickr Photo/Seattle Municipal Archives (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/241yeWL

Fifty years ago, Seattle was trying to decide what do with its center attraction in the wake of the World’s Fair.

One man came forward with the idea of privately-funded plan marine park. Think SeaWorld at the heart of Seattle – complete with a captive orca to perform shows.

Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium orca show, 2006.
Wikipedia Photo/Marc Averette (CC BY 3.0)/https://bit.ly/2Iv7sS3

At Penn Cove, on the north end of Whidbey Island, gulls and other birds fly overhead, and a muddy beach leads down to the water.

It’s quiet today, but, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this was the place whale catchers came to capture orcas.


Researchers at Oregon State University have worked out a way to detect and identify whales long after they move on — just by sampling the water.

When whales swim they leave behind a plume of genetic material in the environment: skin, poop and bodily fluids. If you know what to look for, you can use that DNA to figure out what kind of whale went by.

Wikimedia

While the orcas of Puget Sound are sliding toward extinction, orcas farther north have been expanding their numbers. Their burgeoning hunger for big fish may be causing the killer whales’ main prey, chinook salmon, to shrink up and down the West Coast.

Washington state officials have proposed a new tack to save the Pacific Northwest's critically endangered orca population. Their idea is to boost salmon hatchery production by 10 to 20 million more fish per year to provide more food for the iconic killer whales.

In Olympia, state lawmakers are considering stronger protections for the critically endangered population of resident killer whales.

Nathan Cultee dumps 16 farm-raised Atlantic salmon into a container on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at Home Port Seafood in Bellingham.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke talks to Lynda Mapes, The Seattle Times environment reporter, about Washington's disappearing salmon population and what it says about the health of our coast and Puget Sound.  

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