VANCOUVER – Dyna Tuytel, a lawyer at Ecojustice, released the following statement in reaction to news that the four-year-old Southern Resident killer whale known as J50, or Scarlet, has been presumed dead.

“J50’s presumed death deals a devastating blow to a population of killer whales that is already in crisis.

The Southern Resident killer whales face imminent threats to their recovery and survival, including drastic declines in Chinook salmon, their primary prey. On top of this, a noisy ocean, caused by vessel traffic, interferes with their ability to hunt for the scant salmon and communicate with each other.

Throughout her life, J50 was small for her age. In recent weeks, she showed signs of ‘peanut head,’ a visible sign of extreme malnutrition.

While we applaud the extraordinary efforts by Canadian and American researchers that went into attempting to save J50, we stress the need to introduce urgent, legally-enforceable measures to protect the remaining 74 Southern Resident killer whales.

J50’s immediate and extended family is shrinking at a troubling rate. Without emergency action to protect this population, we risk losing it altogether.”