"Emergency order" issued over declining health of 13 orcas in Pacific Northwest (PHOTOS)

Jul 4 2022, 9:12 pm

The health of a number of southern resident killer whales in the waters off Washington State has researchers concerned.

Aerial drone images have led the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to issue an emergency order for 13 vulnerable mammals.

According to the non-profit, SRĀ³ SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research, 12 whales are in apparent poor body condition and one whale is likely to be in a late-stage pregnancy.

“Whales in poor body condition have been found to have an increased probability of mortality in the coming months,” the non-profit said in a statement.

Researchers say the condition of calf “J56” has declined even further over the past year.

Image of now vulnerable orca calf (J56) as a when she was in poor body condition in 2021 beside an image of her in 2022. (SRĀ³ SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research)

“Note how her white eye patches trace the shape of her skull in 2022 when she is extremely emaciated,” the statement reads.

A second photo released is an image of an adult male southern resident killer whale “J27.” An image taken in 2016 shows the orca before his health declined to “poor body condition” in 2022.

In this image, SRĀ³ SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research photograph an adult male Southern Resident killer whale (J27) when he was in above-average body condition in 2018. (SRĀ³ SeaLife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research)

His body profile and the angle of his white eye patches change as a result of fat loss.

“Note how his body profile and the angle of his white eye patches change as the result of fat loss,” researchers explain.

As southern resident killer whales in the Pacific Northwest are said to be going extinct, the governor of Washington State created the Southern Resident Killer Whale Task Force to develop recommendations for ways we can recover this unique population.

Nikitha MartinsNikitha Martins

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