Last resort to save ailing orca could involve containment in a sea pen

Scientists trying to save the life of an endangered young orca may consider taking her to an open water pen in Puget Sound for more intensified treatment.

The preferred action is to treat J-50, also known as Scarlet, while she remains with her family.

But when last seen on Saturday she appeared to have lost more weight, and was trailing 1.5 kms behind her pod. It's not known if she has caught up again.

A team, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is monitoring J-50's condition. The team includes 2 members of the Whale Sanctuary Project.

President Lori Marino says if things deteriorate, NOAA will decide whether to implement a more radical plan:

"There's some talk about what happens if she strands, or if she's completely separated from her family.  And in that case NOAA would consider perhaps picking her up and putting her in a temporary sea pen in Puget Sound just to see if they can intensify the treatment."

Marino says it would likely be a last resort as such a move would cause stress on the young whale and the pod.

Meantime scientists are hoping to dose J-50 with deworming medication again, as it's been determined her mother and another orca in J-pod are infected with parasitic worms -- making it likely the young whale is too.


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