Emergency efforts to rescue endangered killer whale hit snag in Canada

Lummi Hereditary Chief Bill James center, leads a blessing aboard a Lummi Nation Natural Resources Enforcement boat before departing Bellingham

J-50 is almost four years old and part of the critically endangered southern residents, a population of killer whales with only about 75 individuals.

"We just amended the marine mammal regulations to prohibit feeding marine mammals because we don't want to habituate marine mammals to people, but again we're reviewing that method right now", said Paul Cottrell, marine mammals coordinator with the government agency Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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

Teri Rowles of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that if they find J50 before she dies they'll assess her health and determine if they will administer antibiotics by pole or by dart, and she may receive further treatment of salmon laced with medication.

With that hope - and under the worldwide attention on J-Pod since a mother whale carried her dead newborn calf for days - officials on both sides of the border are preparing to act.

"We don't know exactly what is wrong with her", Rowles said in a teleconference. But they also say they're prepared for other outcomes.

It's not unusual for wild whales to be out of sight for some time, but J-50's condition was so poor it's not clear how long she has left.

Canadian and American scientists are considering how to deliver potentially life-saving medication to a sick killer whale, identified as J-50.

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