Updates on Southern Resident Killer Whales J50 and J35

Contact Us

If you have questions or suggestions, contact us at: KillerWhale.Help@noaa.gov

Media inquiries: contact Jim Milbury (562) 980-4006 and jim.milbury@noaa.gov

View J50 Emergency Response Flickr Gallery ➞

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J50 Videos

J50 Social Media Montage 05a

J50 Emergency Response

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50 Feeding Trials

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50 Feeding Trials

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50– Aerials of Breath Sampling, Antibiotic Administration, J Pod; Salmon Release

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50– Aerials of Breath Sampling, Antibiotic Administration, J Pod; Salmon Release

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50  - Antibiotic Injection Prep & Breath Sampling

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50 - Antibiotic Injection Prep & Breath Sampling

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50 - Tracking by Researchers

B-Roll: Southern Resident Killer Whale J50 - Tracking by Researchers

Public Meetings Sept 15-16

Biologists are mobilized and responding to an emaciated and ailing three year-old killer whale (born December 2014), J50 also known as Scarlet, of the critically endangered Southern Resident population. J50 appears lethargic at times with periods of activity, including feeding. Scientists observing her agree that she is in poor condition and may not survive. Responders from NOAA Fisheries and partner organizations are exploring options ranging from no intervention to providing medical treatment, potentially delivered in a live Chinook salmon, which has never before been attempted in the wild. Potential treatment may include medication and nutrition.

J35, an adult female also known as Tahlequah, who carried her dead calf for over two weeks, was also being monitored.

J50  Updates

Calendar shows actions in Aug/Sep 2018. J50 observed Aug 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 15, 18, 19, 21, 24, 30 and Sep 3, 6, 7. Antibiotics administered Aug 9 & Sep 4. Fish trial Aug 12. Family seen without J50 Sep 1, 2, 11, 12, 13. Active search Sep 13 & 14

Overview of J50 observations and intervention (click to enlarge)

September 15: After dedicated search efforts for J50 over the last two days, J50 was still unaccounted for. The team ended its active search last night (9/14), but the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network remains on alert, and this is a time of year with many researchers on the water. We remain grateful to our many partners and everyone who has lent support to the response and search. J50 and J35 have emphasized the urgency of recovering Southern Resident killer whales.

September 14: The response team continues to search the air and water extensively today near where J50 was last seen. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are providing dedicated assets to the search. Contingency planning to rescue J50 is continuing in the event she is found and rescue operations are appropriate.

September 13: Unfortunately J50 has not been seen in several days of favorable 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. 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. The hotline for stranding reports is 1-866-767-6114.

View past updates

J35  Updates

August 11: The Center for Whale Research confirmed J35/Tahlequah is no longer carrying the calf and appears to be in good condition.

August 10: The team sighted J35 / Tahlequah with J pod in Canadian waters, but could not confirm if she was still carrying her calf due to poor visibility.

August 8: Teams spotted J35/Tahlequah today and the heartbreaking sight of her still carrying her dead calf. It has been almost two weeks since she gave birth.

Week of July 27: Biologists last observed J35 the week of July 27. They are concerned about her health.

July 24: J35 gave birth to a female calf. The calf died about a half hour after birth. J35 has been seen carrying her dead calf since then. She is part of the J pod.

How You Can Help

Keep Distance

Boaters are asked to keep clear of the whales to minimize stress on J50 and J35 at this critical time, and to keep the area clear for response teams to observe J50 and swiftly take action to conduct veterinary assessments on J50 when able.

Vessel noise and disturbance can disrupt the whales’ communication and feeding, as well as increase the energy they expend, so extra efforts to minimize noise and interactions can be beneficial at this time. Vessels are required at all times to stay at least 200 yards from killer whales and stay out of their paths per federal regulations. Visit www.bewhalewise.org for details.The Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) also developed additional guidelines for the whale watch industry to support conservation.

Recover Prey — Chinook Salmon and Restore Salmon Habitat

Many Chinook salmon runs that the Southern Residents eat are also listed under the Endangered Species Act, and efforts to recover these salmon will also benefit the whales. In July, NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife developed a list of Chinook salmon stocks that are important to the whales’ recovery to help inform Chinook salmon recovery and habitat restoration efforts.

Some things you can do to help protect and restore salmon habitat include conserving water and electricity; reducing pesticide and fertilizer use and preventing their runoff into waterways; and volunteering with your local stream or watershed group to plant native species, clean up litter, and remove invasive species.

Reduce Pollution

Reducing pollution in the West Coast rivers and coastal waters is also needed to help the whales and the salmon they eat. The main contaminants of concern are PCBs (e.g., found in plastics, paints, rubber, electrical equipment), DDT (found in pesticides), PBDEs (fire retardant chemicals found, for example, in mattresses, TVs, toasters). During times of nutritional stress, the effects of the high levels of contaminants in this top predator can compromise their health by impairing immune function and interfering with reproduction.

There are many little things we can all do at home, school, and work to improve the environment and waters on which killer whales, salmon, and other marine species depend.

Partners in Response

NOAA Fisheries administers the permit to conduct this response under a Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act Scientific Research and Enhancement Permit issued through the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. We convene a network of organizations along the West Coast we have authorized to respond when whales are in distress or entangled — the West Coast Marine Mammals Stranding Network.

Responders on this effort

A dedicated group working both on-the-water and behind-the-scenes is involved in the response. The team draws on the world’s top experts from governments, tribes, academia, private sector, and non-profit groups, who have deep connections and years of experience with these whales. While now focused on short-term support, these groups are integral to long-term research and solutions to the threats facing these whales.

Recovering Southern Resident Killer Whales

Southern Resident Killer whales are considered to be one of eight marine species most at risk of becoming extinct and NOAA Fisheries designated them as a Species in the Spotlight. There are now only 75 Southern Residents, the lowest in three decades, down from a peak of 98 in the 1990s. An action plan details priority actions to help in their recovery and addresses the three key threats to their survival: