SR3’s Dr. Holly Fearnbach and NOAA colleague Dr. John Durban are still in the field around the San Juan Islands, conducting a key health assessment of the endangered population of Southern Resident killer whales. The team has been using an unmanned octocopter drone to non-invasively collect high-resolution aerial images that will be analyzed to quantify growth and body condition, to support recovery actions aimed at maintaining an adequate food supply. These aerial images can also be used to provide real-time updates on health and foraging success. Unfortunately, there continue to be a number of whales in the population that are in poor and declining body condition and we remain concerned about the condition of J pod in particular (see photos). The good news is that we have documented successful foraging from the air (see photo) and hope that if they are given space and can find sufficient food, the whales may be able to improve their condition. In the coming months, the images will be analyzed to add to a 10-year time series of whale growth and condition.
There is a high level of concern about the health of a young Southern Resident killer whale, J50, who has been documented to be in very poor body condition in recent months.
SR3's Marine Mammal Research Director, Dr. Holly Fearnbach, and her NOAA colleague Dr. John Durban, have succeeded in capturing overhead images of ailing Southern Resident killer whale youngster J50, during their emergency field effort to assess her condition. Building on collaborative field work with NOAA’s Cetacean Health and Life History Program and the Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute that has assessed J50’s condition since 2015 in her first year of life, these new images reveal her to be currently in a concerning state of poor body condition. We wanted to share this photo comparison with you while we await analyses from collaborative health assessments.
For more information about this collaborative study see https://swfsc.noaa.gov/news.aspx?ParentMenuId=147&id=23000
While in the San Juan Islands, Dr. Fearnbach and her colleagues collected data on 3 large whale species as part of an ongoing nutritional health study. Gray, humpback, and minke whales all made an appearance!
Dr. Fearnbach and colleagues got great images of Bigg’s killer whales during their May health assessment of whale populations in the San Juan Islands.
Emaciated elephant seal pup receives critical medical care in SR3 marine wildlife ambulance during transport to San Juan Island.
Dr. Fearnbach checks in from the San Juan Islands during this season’s health assessments on the critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales on National Endangered Species Day!
A two day mission to help a young entangled gray whale began last Tuesday after a report from a commercial fisherman.
Dr. Fearnbach recaps a successful 4th consecutive annual assessment of the body condition of gray whales migrating past Piedras Blancas lighthouse in California.