Breaking! Orca ‘J50’ Also Known As Scarlet, Is Presumed Dead, Leaving Only 74 Southern Resident Orcas Left In The Wild

NOAA Fisheries / AP File

Southern resident orca J-pod lost another member of their family today, four-year-old female J50, despite emergency human intervention with medical treatment and attempted hand feeding, she didn’t survive. J50’s failing health – along with not being sighted with her pod has lead experts to declare her presumed death (though NOAA and partners will continue searches for a not-yet-determined period of time). She was the first orca born during the 2015 “baby boom.” Since then, there have been no successful births in the southern resident orca population. Scarlet was only a few years away from being able to reproduce, which the southern resident orcas desperately needed. With Scarlet’sdeath, there are only 74 southern resident orcas remaining in the wild.

This is the third death this summer for the southern residents. The vigil of new orca mother J23 carrying her dead calf for over a week garnered international attention. L92, a 23-year-old male, also died earlier this summer.

Robb Krehbiel, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement: “We are devastated by the loss of J50 “Scarlet.” Not only does this bring the population closer to extinction, but we have also lost future generations with her death. Despite the emergency response to feed her and provide her with medicine, these efforts were not enough. It is a heartbreaking reminder that we cannot save these whales on a case-by-case individual basis. What J50 needed, and what her family continues to need, is healthy and abundant chinook salmon, which these orcas depend upon for survival. If we are unable to restore the salmon that these orcas need, more whales will starve to death.

NOAA and Washington State were willing to mount an aggressive plan to save this one whale, and we need this type of leadership to save the entire population. Preventing the extinction of these unique whales will require bold leadership and tough choices. We call on Governor Inslee to take immediate action to save these orcas. He can start by counteracting salmon-killing dams, restoring rivers and habitat, reducing toxic stormwater runoff and decreasing noise disturbance from vessels and ships. Much needs to be done, and there is no time to waste to save these whales.”

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