An endangered killer whale that has prompted an worldwide rescue effort won't receive antibiotics by dart or by fish if it's found in Canadian water.
While veterinarians are roaming American waters armed with the experimental life-saving treatments, Paul Cottrell of Fisheries and Oceans Canada says they are still wading through the paper work to make sure any efforts to treat the animal don't affect other members of her pod.
J50 is one of only 75 remaining southern resident killer whales that are found in coastal waters from B.C.to California.
The goal Monday is to determine if J50 is in shape for an emergency provision of live fish, sluiced off the back of a boat, said Michael Milstein, spokesman for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries.
"We don't know exactly what is wrong with her", Rowles said in a teleconference.
Researchers believe the whale is starving, and possibly suffering from some kind of infection.
J50 and J35 have not been spotted since J-pod swam out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the west coast of Vancouver Island late Thursday and Friday.
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"Even if her family is foraging for and sharing fish with her, J35 can not be getting the nutrition she needs to regain any body-mass loss that would have naturally occurred during the gestation of her foetus and also additional loss of nutrition during these weeks of mourning", she added.
They'll decide then whether to administer antibiotics using a dart injector or a long pole syringe.
"If it's determined that antibiotics would be useful, then antibiotics through injection is going to be our best course rather than antibiotics through food, because we recognize that we won't able to treat her every day", Rowles said.
Thornton cautioned, however, that Canadian officials have to follow federal law, perform a thorough risk assessment and minimize the impact of any intervention on J50 and her podmates.
While it's not uncommon for southern resident killer whales to go unsighted for days, researchers are racing the clock to find the J pod because of the young whale's poor health. There are about six boats searching between Vancouver Island and Puget Sound.
J50, a four-year-old female southern resident killer whale, was spotted with other members of her pod including her mother off the coast of Port Renfrew Tuesday, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The ailing orca was swimming with her mum on Wednesday.
NOAA says it has legal authorization to try something it's never done before, which is feed the whale live medicated chinook salmon, as a way of delivering oral antibiotics.