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NOAA not sure if starving orca J50 ate salmon provided during trial feeding

Fisheries and Oceans Canada photo of J50 off Cape Flattery, Washington on August 8, 2018. (Brian Gisborne, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.)

SEATTLE — Whale researchers working to save a sick and starving 3-year-old southern resident orca released live salmon into waters in front of the free-swimming killer whale on Sunday. But they didn’t see the critically endangered animal, called J50, eat any of the eight salmon dropped from the boat. NOAA said it didn’t see J50 eat, but was still reviewing drone footage.

The feeding operation is part of an extraordinary response effort to save the malnourished orca. If J50 is observed eating the fish, and the rest of the pod responds positively to the feeding, officials will do a second feeding with fish injected with antibiotics – the antibiotics are the actual goal of the effort.

A veterinarian also injected J50 with medication using a dart last week.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries biologist Brad Hanson told reporters Monday that they will wait for the pod of orcas to return to the inland waters of Washington state to evaluate the next step.

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