Federal biologists said Wednesday that they are preparing a plan to capture and treat a sick, severely threatened killer whale if there is no other way to save it in the wild.
Officials said they will intervene and save the killer whale only if she gets stranded or separated from the rest of her close group of whales.
They want the 4-year-old killer whale, known as J50, to survive in the wild and contribute to the recovery of the South Australian orca & # 39; s, without the rest of the killer whales in its path in danger to bring.
"We do not intend to intervene when she's with her family, and if we get a situation where salvation is the only viable alternative, we'll save her," Chris Yates, assistant regional manager from the protected sources section, said. from NOAA, to reporters during a telephone conversation.
Veterinarians believe they have exhausted treatment options in the field, including injecting the free-swimming whale with antibiotics in the Pacific Northwest waters twice. Despite the treatment, the J50 is thinner than ever due to undetermined health risks.
"This is a very sick whale," said Joe Gaydos, veterinarian in nature and scientific director of SeaDoc Society. "We do not think she is tall."
Another whale in the same pod, known as J35, caused international sympathy this summer when she bobbed the body of her dead calf in the water for more than two weeks.
The two whales belong to just 75 of the fish-eating killer whales that spend time in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.
The south resident killer whales do not have enough kinook salmon, the main ingredient of their diet. They are also faced with threats of toxic contamination, as well as ship noise and disruptions that disrupt their ability to communicate and forage.
Since 2015 there has been no successful delivery in the population. Losing the J50 also means that she loses her reproductive power.
NOAA Fisheries said the following steps could consist of doing a hands-on physical examination, which could lead to rapid medical treatment and release. Another option at that time would be to keep her in a maritime nettle in Puget Sound for rehabilitation and medical care for a while before she brings her back into the wild to reunite with her family.
J50 is left behind with her group in the ocean, sometimes miles away, which raises questions about what criteria would be used to determine if she is sufficiently divorced for scientists to attempt to capture.
Yates said that J50 should exhibit more extreme behavior than what she has exhibited so far, and that scientists will act if they do not believe they will contact her pod again.
An international team of Canadian and American whale experts has made an intensive effort to help the killer whale, as concerns arose in mid-July.
They have taken breath and stool samples, but are still not sure what is wrong with the J50.
Response teams have tried to give her medication to help with parasitic worms, which they think are based on faecal samples from her mother.
Teams have also dropped live salmon from a boat because J50 and her path swam behind him – a test to see if fish can be used as a means of delivering medication.
On drone recordings made on Monday, J50 proved much thinner than last year. Her mother, J16, has also decreased over the past month, perhaps because of the burden of helping to catch and share food with J50, experts said.
"We do not want to take her from her mother where we have a J35 situation," Gaydos said. "These are very difficult questions to answer and I think it is good that we are talking about all options now."
NOAA Fisheries announced two meetings this weekend in the state of Washington – Friday Harbor and Seattle – to get input from the public.
What to do to help J50 has led to intense emotional reactions to social media and other forums. Some have argued with federal officials to do everything they can to save her, including feeding her or catching her. Others are concerned that more intervention would emphasize her and her relatives. They think that nature should let its course go.
"We would like J50 to survive," said Susan Berta, co-founder of the Orca Network, a lobby group. "At what point do we do more harm than good?"