Massive search on for sick orca J50 that researcher fears could be dead

The emancipated orca known as J50 has now been given live salmon in an attempt to get her strength up. Global News

Researchers have launched a search for a sick killer whale that hasn’t been seen in days.

The three-year-old orca, known as J50, has been not been since Friday off San Juan Island. Her family was seen Wednesday but J50 was not among them.

“Unfortunately J50 has not been seen in several days of favourable conditions and sightings of her pod and family group, including J16, her mother. Teams were on the water searching yesterday and are increasing a broad transboundary search today with our on-water partners and counterparts in Canada,” NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Michael Milstein said.

READ MORE: Critically ill endangered orca J50 has parasitic worms: NOAA

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“We have alerted the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which is a tremendous resource in such situations. Airlines flying in and out of the San Juan Islands are also on the lookout. We greatly appreciate all the help and concern.”

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The sick orca has received international attention. J50’s condition has been getting worse and scientists were considering a last-ditch plan to capture the emaciated killer whale for treatment.

READ MORE: Scientists considering capturing sick orca J50 to give her medical treatment

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“Most of us think J50 is really sick,” Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Martin Haulena said this week.

“She is in such poor body condition that every other whale that has ever looked like her has already passed away.”

WATCH HERE: Condition of ailing orca ‘J50’ not improving: scientists

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Condition of ailing orca ‘J50’ not improving: scientists

J50 has been dosed with antibiotics and anti-worming medication but so far efforts to treat her have been unsuccessful and they’ve noted a decline in her condition over the last month.

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Ken Balcomb, the founding director of the US-based Center for Whale Research, told the Seattle Times he believes the whale is dead.

“I think she is gone,” Balcomb told the Times.

— With files from Jon Azpiri

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