Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say they are concerned that the ailing killer whale known as J50 has not been seen in several days.
The NOAA said teams have spotted the whale’s pod —which includes J16, her mother — during their search but not J50.
Lead veterinarian Joe Gaydos said Wednesday the team last saw the whale Sept. 7.
“It was striking to me how thin she was … she is the thinnest killer whale I’ve ever seen,” said Gaydos.
“(She) definitely captured our hearts, but I don’t want to leave you with any false hopes, this is a very sick whale,” he said.
On its website, the NOAA said it was increasing its search boundaries Thursday with its “on-water partners and counterparts in Canada.”
The Center for Whale Research said that the orca and her group became separated from the main pod somewhere in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The southern resident killer whales, which are so endangered there are just 75 individuals left, swim between Canadian and U.S. waters to Seattle and Vancouver ports through busy shipping lanes.
J50 is part of a family group known as J-pod, which also includes the mother orca who gained international attention for carrying her dead newborn calf in an apparent display of mourning that lasted 17 days.
With files from Michelle Ghoussoub
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